A look at the living landscape
How to understand landscape, heritage and identity
Framing the View
FRAMING THE VIEW A Look at the Living Landscape
Eindhoven – Christian Curré
In his new function / supplier of landscape (“Formerly Farmer”, J. Bernlef)
©1996–2015 Christian Curré firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com https://nl.linkedin.com/in/christiancurre All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author.
Preface In this booklet, which hopefully will be a source of inspiration, you will find a study at the intersection of science and practice filled by people, places and perspectives. For many years, I have been working for several organisations for which I was able to carry out both scientific and applied fieldwork on my guiding themes of landscape, identity, cultural history, sustainability and innovation. I mainly focused on the role of actors within development chains / vital coalitions with regard to landscaping, identity and branding. I started with the rather vague notion of 'identity' and came out with an actual and transparent pattern of behaviour. This book should be considered an analysis and toolbox in one. It is not intended as a coffeetable book, but rather a practical guide. For the reader's sake I opted, methodologically speaking, not to over-burden the text with theoretical knowledge; rather, I focused on where all my experiences, insights and interviews have led me over the years. I hope that my approach of actors in their landscape – operating out of their passion and working towards sustainable development by constantly developing, and adjusting the storylines in their landscapes – will take the reader's fancy. Starting from my concept of anthropologists being both actors and factors in the field, I try provide an insight for further research as well as a perspective for all actors, who are, somewhere, somehow, standing up for the landscapes they treasure, develop and defend – perhaps helping them to understand and apply their own passion. I would like to stress that I will not be focusing on the (f)actual / present state of the regions described, but rather on the lasting, cumulative insights they provide. When you have been doing research in the social sciences over a period of many years, more specifically as cultural anthropologist, how could you begin to thank specific persons? It may sound like a cliché, but as I worked on this research – the translation, the adaptation and review of the chapters – many memories came back to me. Of interviews in many languages with people who sometimes at first were tense or guarded, respondents with whom you ended up in the pub down the road (leading to even more insight in the local forces at work) and with whom you would stay in contact. Strolls, boat trips, lunches, heart-stopping off-road drives, cultural-historical fairs, the heat and the cold – always there were respondents willing to tell their story, helping you catch it and willing to be surprised. I wish to thank all subsidizing bodies and
employers, professors and (inter)national organisations who have helped me in the course of my research. Finally I would like to thank Arjan, without whom both research and booklet would have been impossible. We had a lot of fun during the travels and the field work, and happily still have. And so the story comes to a logical conclusion, as an actor among actors. Anthropological indeed. Christian CurrĂŠ, Autumn 2015
Table of Contents Preface .............................................................................................................. 3 1. Introduction ................................................................................................... 9 Interest from a Young Age............................................................................. 9 Studying towards a Dwelling Perspective ..................................................... 9 Managing, Consuming and Preserving: Actors in Action ............................ 11 The Emergence of the Region..................................................................... 12 European Regions: ‘How Quickly Can We Become Famous’?................... 14 Agenda-Setting of Regional Identity in Vital Coalitions ............................... 17 2. Living Landscape ........................................................................................ 20 New Interest in Natural Netherlands ........................................................... 20 Landscape in Anthropology: from Describing Locations to ‘Dwelling Perspective’ ................................................................................................. 21 Estate and Landscape: a Kaleidoscope of ‘Views’ ...................................... 25 Kent and Achterhoek: Dynamics of the Coulisse Landscape ..................... 27 Kent .......................................................................................................... 27 Achterhoek ............................................................................................... 30 The Cognitive Maps ................................................................................. 32 Between Desire and Reality: the Meaning of Landscape ........................... 34 3. The Art of Seducing .................................................................................... 37 Countryside Dynamics................................................................................. 37 A Need for Images ....................................................................................... 38 Urban–Rural Relationships ...................................................................... 39 Between Hope and Fear.............................................................................. 40 Relativistic Spatial Planning ........................................................................ 42 New Opportunities ....................................................................................... 44 5|Framing the View
4. The Story behind the Story ......................................................................... 45 Introduction .................................................................................................. 45 Layout of this Chapter ................................................................................. 45 Orientation ................................................................................................... 46 Regional Identity: No Cure-All ..................................................................... 47 Urban Region Frankfurt: ‘Mainhattan’ ......................................................... 48 The Green Belt as a Unique Selling Point for the Urban Region............. 50 Apple Wine Culture: Historical and Modern Carrier of Identity ................ 52 Culture and Marketing.............................................................................. 54 Opportunities and Challenges from This Case ........................................ 55 The New Forest: a Strong Brand in a ‘Well-Defined Area’ .......................... 56 Opportunities and Challenges from This (Sub)Case ............................... 58 The South Downs: Managing a Region That Has Many Stakeholders ....... 59 The South Downs: Many Qualities in a Large Area ................................. 61 ‘Tradition Takes Time’: Stories within the Landscape ............................. 64 Opportunities and Challenges from this (Sub)Case ................................ 67 The High Weald: Characterising a Historical, Dynamic Area ...................... 69 High Weald between Past and Present: Historical Layers ...................... 72 ‘Putting It on the Map’: Dimensions and (Im)Possibilities of Branding .... 73 Opportunities and Challenges from This (Sub)Case ............................... 76 Le Marais Audomarois: Modern Times in a Historical Region .................... 77 Caught between Scylla and Charybdis: Conflicting Interests of Users ... 80 Room for an Own Brand ‘Le Marais Audomarois’? ................................. 82 The Story of the Marais: between Tradition and Progress…................... 85 Challenges and Opportunities from This Case ........................................ 88 Identity and Branding: a Delicate, Pragmatic and Creative Process .......... 89 5. From Culture to Branding? .......................................................................... 92 6|Framing the View
The Demand for Sustainable Vital Coalitions in a Metropolitan Landscape 92 The Dilemma of Acting Actors versus Regulating Authorities ................. 92 Zooming In: The Problem of Normative Questions in a Living Landscape ................................................................................................................. 93 Regional Identity as an Analytic Vehicle for Understanding Acting Actors ................................................................................................................. 93 Layout of the Rest of the Chapter ............................................................ 94 On Region, Identity and Landscape ............................................................ 95 Identity between Past and Present: Ethnological Tool in the Toolkit ....... 95 Identity as a Biography of the Landscape – to See, or Not to See? ........ 96 Regional Products: Holy Grail and Missing Link between Region and Identity?.................................................................................................... 98 Roadmap: the Case Studies as Possible Keys ..................................... 100 South Limburg Hills: Spoilt for Choice for a Cultural Story of the Region . 101 Cultural Area Capital (What We Have) .................................................. 101 Cultural Area Knowledge (Programming) .............................................. 104 Cultural Area Initiatives (Actors as Intermediate Dimensions within the Story of an Area) .................................................................................... 108 Cultural Area Innovations (Coalitions?) ................................................. 112 The Green Forest: National Landscape as a Story about Stories?........... 116 Cultural Area Capital (What We Have) .................................................. 116 Cultural Area Knowledge (Programming) .............................................. 121 Cultural Area Initiatives (Actors as an Intermediate Dimension within the Story of an Area) .................................................................................... 125 Conclusion: Regional Identity as a Factor in Acting by Means of Vital Coalitions ................................................................................................... 133 South Limburg Hills ................................................................................ 133 The Green Forest................................................................................... 134 7|Framing the View
Towards an Actor-Based Approach: Creating Cultural Area Innovations from a Perspective of Regional Identity ................................................. 136 6. Sustainable Area Development ................................................................ 138 Appearances – Culture and its Regions .................................................... 138 An Exploration of the Perspective – Culture as a Sustainable Carrier of the Region and/or Engine for Area Development? ................................ 138 Existing Views on Culture and Sustainability in Brabant ........................... 139 High-Brow Versus Low-Brow, Lowercase ‘c’ Versus Capital ‘C’: the Range of Brabant Culture ..................................................................................... 140 Representation and Identity....................................................................... 142 Representation and Identity and the Role of Landscape....................... 142 Role and Meaning of the Various Layers of Government...................... 143 Tour d’horizon: What Can the Regions in The Netherlands and Abroad Teach Us? ................................................................................................. 145 Heuvelland Zuid-Limburg (South Limburg Hills) .................................... 145 Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest) .................................................. 146 Cases in Germany, Britain and France.................................................. 148 Agenda-Setting of Regional Identity in Vital Coalitions ............................. 153 Final Conclusions: Recommendations for Promoting a Relation between Culture and Area Development ................................................................. 155 References .................................................................................................... 159 Colophon ....................................................................................................... 166 History of the Chapters .............................................................................. 166 Other Materials .......................................................................................... 166 Picture Credits ........................................................................................... 166
8|Framing the View
1. Introduction Fifteen Years of Viewing the Living Landscape
Interest from a Young Age Being interested in such a thing as people and landscape, especially in combination with nature reserves, where does it come from? In light of the rest of my story in this booklet, I will have to look close to home for the answer. In the late 1970s my father, who was employed by what was then still called the Vereniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten (Union for the Preservation of Natural Monuments) to ‘pioneer’ in the eastern parts of the Netherlands, the region of Achterhoek/Graafschap. It was around this time that many of the estates the region is renowned for ‘became available’: nobility more or less compelled for dynastic or economic reasons to bequeath their estates to the Union. In these cases, my father often was the first point of contact and the first to visit the bequeathing party. The magic of walking around in a country house that had seen better days, its smell, the atmosphere, the stairwells and the grounds gone to seed (fields, pastures, woods needing urgent maintenance, I saw my father drawing up plans as we went), made a lasting impression on me. And yet it dawned on me fairly quickly that there was more at play during those visits, which were not just about courtesy calls: an agenda was tentatively being set. Some of the owners wished to build a new house for themselves on another part of the estate; others wanted to make a deal on hunting privileges – surely, they could continue to hunt? There were, in short, always multiple players in the game, who all had to consult within their group, of this I was conscious from early on.
Studying towards a Dwelling Perspective By the time I went to the University of Amsterdam to read anthropology, I worked a lot with my father during weekends and holidays on what in the meantime had become a conglomerate of estates that had all come under the management of Natuurmonumenten and had now entered an era of public access, and I realised that it would be nearly impossible to disregard my fascination for ‘people in their landscape’. Auxiliary modules in environmental psychology, museology and cultural philosophy helped me understand that I really was interested in the ‘story behind the scenes’. My major helped me to interpret this in a scientific fashion and I was lucky to have a professor who 9|Framing the View
recognised this and suggested I have a word with an ex-colleague of his, who went on to become my supervisor.
la nd sc
/m in ds
Subsequent visits to Poland and England put me in contact with like minds, even if I remained the only one who really wanted to dive into the subject of landscape and perception (and vice versa). After many consultations with my supervisor, we settled on ‘the story behind estate management’ as a MA thesis subject, to better understand who exactly determines how a landscape is shaped and transformed, influenced by various stakeholders. To this end I developed a specific model (Curré 1998), pictured below.
Figure 1 – Caleidoscopic: view as the focal point of understanding identity and landscape (loosely based on Verrips' landscape-manscape-mindscape approach and Ingold's dwelling perspective).
10 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
This theoretical approach followed the recently published and influential book by Hirsch and O’Hanlon (1995), who were the first to put the landscape centre stage within the field of anthropology, as an independent force within the ‘story of an area’. Combining this with Urry’s concept of consuming landscape (1995) and Metz’ additional ideas on new nature (1998), all I needed now was an overarching methodology. Convinced by now that I belonged to the school of phenomenologists, all I asked myself now was how I could get the people to talk on the subject. Here my interest in environmental psychology stood me in good stead (including models developed by Lynch and Kaplan and Kaplan), as did my fascination for personal stories and the biographical method of research, encouraged by the research of my third supervisor (Aalten 1994). The magic word that showed me where the link lies, one sunny summer’s afternoon, is ‘view’. The meaning of landscape in my opinion must be seen in the views of inhabitants and shapers of landscapes on management and use. ‘View’ is an interesting term because it refers to both sensory perception as a viewpoint, just as ‘landscape’ refers simultaneously to something practical, namely that which we can perceive, and to that perception’s background (see also Chapter 2 below). I now felt ready for my MA research.
Managing, Consuming and Preserving: Actors in Action Part two of this publication is devoted to the research mentioned above, on which I eventually graduated and which I further developed in a chapter in Kolen and Lemaire (1999), reprinted here as Chapter 2. This chapter contains my plea for a combination of methods aimed at words and images and a new view on the role of landscape and its users and their interrelation. Not only had the landscape to me become an independent actor, I also realised that I myself, by dint of my presence and my questions, had become both an actor and a factor in the story I was telling. This to me seemed undesirable at first, but when I looked up Malinowski (1922) again, I found consolation in the anthropological view that this could hardly ever be otherwise, even if Malinowski did not explicitly make the link with landscape. As a result, I came to the conclusion, a.o., that landscape deserves a more prominent place within anthropology and the social sciences in general. We should be looking not only for the meaning of landscape in faraway places, but also to the emotional relationship modern Western man has with landscape. This anthropological angle can bring to light perspectives that cannot be easily explained otherwise and environmental psychology can be useful in the areas of ‘image’ and ‘imagining’. The (cognitive) picture people have of the landscape in which they live is important and should not only be approached 11 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
from a purely verbal point of view, but also in image; and furthermore not only at group level, but also at the personal level. Landscape is more than a physical given; it is also the organized environment that is perceived within a social structure, based on ideas and expectations
The Emergence of the Region Bringing with me all the knowledge gathered in the first years of my research, I decided in consultation with my then managers and professors to bring my research questions to a higher, more conceptual level. My field of work lent itself perfectly to practical research which could then be distilled into more scientific reporting. This is where the next chapter, co-written with a valued research colleague for a publication on countryside development, comes in. In our essay, reprinted here as Chapter 3, translated and slightly adapted, we proposed to discuss the following questions: (1) (2)
How can the changes in the Brabant countryside be explained in a spatial sense? How can this dynamic reality be guided in a caring way, allowing for a high-quality culture landscape to emerge?
These questions, we thought, can only be answered when taking into consideration the radical changes in spatial policy for the rural area, which has been increasingly become regionalized. Because of this, provinces, regional cooperation initiatives and municipalities become increasingly involved in planning issues for the countryside. We found that landscape can be a binding force to link the interests of all parties involved. It is one of the last remaining distinguishing qualities of the rural area, since city and countryside have grown closer in social-cultural, economic and psychological areas into a ‘countryscape’, an amalgamation of countryside and landscape. Regions try to distinguish themselves by means of regional identity. Identity should in this case also be considered culturally as a carrier of a given community’s history and values (Cohen 1985). Local communities and regions have been looking for distinguishing factors and identity. The countryside’s traditions, rituals and symbols have less and less a direct relationship with agriculture. Stories and images from the past are appropriated, and often historical facts are bent to fit their current usefulness or new elements are construed and added (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983).
12 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The overarching question that emerged in my research was how actors are (or are not) able to join forces to work on sustainable area development by means of so-called Vital Coalitions, a complex question to combine with dwelling perspective, a theoretical approach of the cultural biography of the region (Rooijakkers) and a practical view on the sustainability model Planet – Profit – People. What moves actors to commit themselves to a regional agenda and how conscious are they of this process? I felt it important to apply a twofold strategy to the subject of rural development. On the one hand, it is advisable to cast a critical eye on the challenges of planning and designing, on the other with empathy towards the social-cultural developments that are happening in parallel with the planning challenges, as we are dealing with changes in a dynamic, rural community. New dynamics and new spatial challenges require a new, open approach. The old ‘planning regimes’ are no longer sufficient. Large-scale diversification and diffusion have emerged on the spatial plane, leaving expertise no longer obvious and creating a need for storytelling that offers direction. Being flexible and working on multiple planes requires a poetic discourse rather than technical regulations and documents. To this end, over the years I began to discern the following cultural area aspects: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Cultural area capital (both tangible and intangible: immaterial heritage) Cultural area knowledge Cultural area innovations Cultural area initiatives
I also thought it important to rise above the usage of the concept ‘regional identity’ in a purely folkloristic or national-symbolic meaning (with due respect, though, for tradition, because it can be an important driving force for a region’s biography); I was more concerned with how it works and how it is applied by the people themselves. The discussion on sense and nonsense of the usage of the concept ‘regional identity’ moves on the cutting edge of spatial and cultural sciences (see Chapter 6 for an overview). In this chapter, my aforementioned colleague Joks Janssen and I discuss opportunities to apply the concept in an alternative way, by means of a kind of “against-the-grain” lateral thinking dynamic: deploy willing and passionate actors to play with the concept, in interplay with the area and its stakeholders. 13 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
In order to be able to answer these questions and work with these dimensions, I took to the field in the Netherlands and abroad and looked at the following cases:
Frankfurter Grüngürtel (Frankfurt Green Belt, Germany) The South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), The New Forest National Park, The High Weald AONB (England) Le Marais audomarois, part of the Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale (France) Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest, Netherlands) Heuvelland Limburg (The South Limburg Hills, Netherlands)
Chapter 4 contains a summary with conclusions of the international cases; Chapter 5 contains an overview of the Dutch Figure 2 – Field research in England. cases and introduces as most prominent addition to my research model and conclusion the so-called ‘intermediary forces’. Chapter 6, finally, offers a short synthesis for the benefit of the reader and concludes with the cultural dimensions of regional development, my conclusions regarding the research questions on actors and vital coalitions and functions as an addition to the ‘dwelling perspective’ we started out with. And so, in conclusion, after almost twenty years of looking at the landscape, the landscape and its people – or the people and their landscape – to me at least were wide open.
European Regions: ‘How Quickly Can We Become Famous’? In the course of one of my European research trips I found once again, both during official interviews and more informally, that I had entered the field as a factor. The regions I visited were all busy (sometimes under pressure from Europe, but mostly from their own urgent agenda) trying to bring stakeholding parties together. It was not until I was able to show them in an operationalised 14 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
fashion that the ‘story behind the story’ could really support them with selfreflection and guiding processes that the managing parties were prepared and able to see the importance of researching identity – regional identity. This was the moment where many reports were dug up, discussions started and meetings organized, all on regional identity as the saving force of culture. The tiredness of this and similar concepts is well known, of course – we all have seen how quickly the similar concepts of spatial quality and sustainability have disappeared from the agenda or at least substantially changed meaning, becoming or remaining mere container concepts. Still, to me identity remains a sustainable keyword in itself, and it has been guiding me for many years now to new insights regarding landscape. During my international explorations, performed as part of the European Interreg IIIB programme Lifescape Your Landscape, a first requirement soon emerged, namely to examine various terms and concepts from the various languages and attempt to streamline them. The Dutch term ‘streek’ is not the same as the more general ‘area’, is not the same as ‘region’. Regional identity proved to work as a concept to discuss with the (inter)national partners. Often sub-regions have names and identities of their own, showing pretty quickly where the issues lie. Within the High Weald AONB, for instance, lies Ashdown Forest of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. This area has such a strong brand of its own that it has become nearly impossible for the overarching management body to develop an independent agenda for the region. Next to management coalitions, in this particular case we see population coalitions, tourism coalitions and souvenir/product coalitions emerge, that for the moment do not yet dovetail. When coach companies independently send their coaches to visit the area, the management body has no choice but to provide facilities to cope with the amount of visitors, lest they destroy the surroundings. Only when you can appropriate the story of the region (also in an operational sense), using a leading and preferably (to the story) well-known actor, a coalition can emerge with one unified agenda, a coalition that eventually may prove to be vital and so irreplaceable and possibly sustainable. The subject that kept cropping up with regard to this discussion is the need for ‘branding’. All research cases I visited had developed a deep urge for the creation of a brand. Perhaps they had been talked into it by overarching programmes, but at times it seemed like a direct shortcut and indeed the only road to Paradise. This phenomenon I would later encounter again in the Dutch 15 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
cases. The problem here lies in the fact that the area stakeholding parties often are heading for a lock-in by wanting to create an entire brand (preferably by meeting often and engaging an expensive advertising agency), without looking at content first. What are the SWOT results and what is the story we want to tell? And there you have it. Not everybody is determined to create a brand, by the way. There are so many parties active in the South Downs that it is impossible to even start attempting it, but here as well the area-oriented approach seems to be the most successful. Some regional products are being promoted, such as the South Downs Lamb, but this is a good quality product that happens to be from the region rather than a regional product. This leads us to the discussion on regional products. Every region ideally would like to have an inalienable regional product, such as Bossche Bol cream puffs, Spreewald gherkins or Parma ham. But products that just ‘happen to be from the region’ can be attractive alternatives too, even when they have a little ‘less magic’. Intelligent and sustainable area development stretches beyond merely ‘positioning’ a story of a region. Actors that stand up for their region because of e.g. passion, life-long connectedness to the region, social standing or fame, are very important indeed. They are able to ‘seduce’ others to create coalitions at a higher level. People, Planet and Profit can hence lead to a sustainable equilibrium, where the forms of cultural capital are leading. Ecology offers a broad basis for area care, economy offers solutions that are often surprisingly simple (albeit sometimes difficult to achieve). Frankfurt am Main is a case in point, where closing the Grüngürtel (Green Belt) could be made possible by using a small percentage of the closing project (railway zone area innovation) to involve the other Ps from the sustainability triangle. One discussion in which I expressly did not involve myself was that of possible changing régimes (the present systemic and ruling way of thinking and operating): the question whether or not ‘vital coalitions’ should be used to topple régimes. I have limited myself to coalitions of actors that are themselves able to influence the story of a region in such a manner that they can initiate area innovations for themselves. In this manner, they influence area capital and area awareness, causing any obstructing régimes to disappear from view by themselves through market forces. For the results of the international explorations, I kindly refer to Chapter Four. 16 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Agenda‐Setting of Regional Identity in Vital Coalitions It would be rather naively essentialist if we were to view ‘culture’ either as a dimension that can be added on top or a quantity that can be analyzed purely on its own. Rather, it forms one side of the sustainability triangle Profit– Planet–People, although it should certainly be noted that the cultural aspect has been somewhat underexposed. Also, we should not one-sidedly assign culture to the ‘People’ part and so isolate it from economy or ecology. Recognizing the cultural dimension within all sides of the sustainability triangle (area sources, area initiatives, area innovations, area knowledge, area capital both tangible and intangible): economy and ecology are part of the socialcultural, and vice versa. Shaping these aspects into a concrete approach needs organisational sensitivity: listening, being sensitive to the level of scale, assuming an encouraging attitude, avoiding role confusion, being willing to be a linking pin, being prepared to let go of institutional compartmentalisation. Public and private parties are very well suited to complement each other, but how to find each other is not obvious: it takes insight, guts and innovative strength between the domains of economy, ecology and culture to get into contact with each other and to (be willing to) understand the other(s). What works for one region will not automatically work for another: the interplay of organizations, historical interests and actors will be unique to the case. The agenda-setting role of ‘regional identity’ in area development in my opinion is encoded in intermediary forces: actors that start area initiatives in cooperation with others, based on area capital and area knowledge and, in doing so, develop and encounter forces that themselves have an effect on the larger story of the area: cultural area innovations as a dynamic and interactive relation between smaller, personal experience on the one hand and largerscale developments on the other. Within the sustainability triangle of people, planet and profit, at the people end there is splendid potential of reaching out to the other domains, namely the aspects of culture, stories and acting human beings (sometimes inconsistently). This is why I in the course of my international research have proposed a fourth ‘P’, which is the ‘P’ for Passion. What is interesting is what makes people stand up for their region, start acting at all for something that could easily lie beyond their observation horizon and begin talking, developing and generally investing time in often complex and seemingly impossible processes. 17 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The model I eventually arrived at is discussed in detail in Chapter 6. Using capital, knowledge, initiatives and innovations, actors can get a grip on area innovation and so actively influence their dwelling perspective. Before we move on to the actual case studies in Chapter 2, I would like to present a number of general insights gained over the years, both as a general inspiration and a a teaser for the next chapters.
A vital storyline, or rather several storylines that together constitute a cultural story of the area, seems to profit from a certain amount of ‘looseness’. Institutionalisation, which is apt to occur when people organise themselves (especially at administrative levels), may become suffocating in a over-hurried search for the story, in which dynamism and the cultural biography’s many facets get lost in a whirl of program lines and abstraction that are purely marketing-oriented. The economic (entrepreneurs), green (and ecological) and cultural (and cultural-historical) lines should be actively looking out for each other to prevent an area lock-in from occurring. Cooperation from the idea of solidarity, whether or not it is about old or new traditions, needs proponents but also subtlety, benevolence and interdisciplinarity. Very often, domains are too much separate, from the administrative level down to the various institutions’ actors. A second lock-in lies in the actors having a stereotypical image of ‘regional identity’ as a complex concept. This quickly leads to biased positions that are linked to perceived historical constructs or prominent actors ‘they obstruct everything’ or ‘he is so dominant’. There are indeed many forms of appropriation taking place in an area development process, and its assessment by other actors determines what vitality arises for a given initiative: proponents of a branding story can be very determining, which leads to the risk of excluding people. Founding fathers of an area can be identified too much with the area (risk factor), ethnologists are sometimes branded as ‘taking traditions and so the process hostage’. Two differing area truths in the field of ‘regional identity’ are on the one hand a search and need for a ‘tangible’ story of the area, leading to the risk of essentialism; and on the other that you should not ‘organise cultural forces to death’. A new vision of the region as a whole, from innovative concepts arising out of the various domains may be a way to gather actors around a story. Thinking in arrangements, new markets or vital coalitions to attract target groups and serving and implementing liveable city-countryside transitions are examples.
18 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Sustainability is a flexible concept– is it determined by temporal or quality aspects? Momentum is very important to develop area initiatives, alliances and chains. It is apt to dissipate when actors feel it all takes too much time, which is, however, not to say automatically that no vital contribution to a total process has been made when viewed over a longer period. The timeframe of human memory is in fact very important in a cultural story of the area, for it consists to a large degree of stories, feelings and associations. When there is a feeling of ‘nothing happening’ for a longer period of time, ‘area fatigue’ may arise. On the other hand, when there is an excess of actions and parallel initiatives, something like ‘area saturation’ may occur. Neither may be considered a vital breeding ground of and for a cultural story of the area.
19 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
2. Living Landscape An Anthropological Approach
New Interest in Natural Netherlands The Netherlands are being reshaped once again, this time not to build dykes and polders, but to create lakes and marshes. There is even a term for it: new nature. A name that sounds like a contradiction in terms to me. New nature – it could only happen in The Netherlands. – Metz (1998) Never before has ‘nature’ enjoyed such a level of interest, nor in so many different ways. Garden centres trip over themselves trying to dream up new trends for buy-happy land lovers, Country Living Fairs are mushrooming and ‘nature developers’ create new, ‘real’ nature. The entire nation seems to be looking for green, atmosphere and authenticity. The year 1998 was proclaimed the Year of the Landscape. ‘Landscape’ certainly is a word that has been enjoying a great popularity for some time now. The publication in which this chapter first appeared (Kolen and Lemaire 1999) is a testament to this popularity and it looks as if popular interest will endure for some time. Landscape is a word that crops up in all kinds of places, ranging from spatial planning discussions to contemplations of many art forms that take the landscape as a source of inspiration. This renders it a complex concept with an intriguing history, yet at the same time it has become a household term. This observation offers the opportunity to argue that the interaction between its organization and its experience merits concrete and thorough attention from anthropology, not as an added discipline, but rather as a link between nature and civilization, between the landscape and its inhabitants. People create and re-create the landscape in which they live incessantly, at individual and group level, and they do this from a complex of expectations, viewpoints and experiences. Of course, this does not always happen consciously or on a large scale; where it does, we are directly confronted with a social context replete with spatial policies, interest groups and power structures. Exactly an analysis of those interests, of the confrontations of viewpoints, is the domain of anthropology, in order to provide an insight in the way in which we as a society go about our landscape.
20 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
‘Nature’ does not equal ‘landscape’. Together, however, they form an important factor in our existence, a symbiotic constellation of natural building blocks and people who organize these building blocks in a certain way. Seen this way, nature and landscape really are two sides of the same coin; concepts with their own weight that still are inextricably linked. Nature refers to ‘real’ and ‘untouched’ and landscape to organized surroundings. Of course, reality is not that black-and-white and it is wise to realize that these concepts too are subject to changing interpretations. To me, landscape is a way of viewing, perceiving the surroundings in which we find ourselves, the way the landscape painters have handed us the concept. The funny thing is that precisely this ‘framing’ of the landscape, this static adoration, is so deeply engrained in our cultural heritage that we would almost forget that living in a landscape in itself is a dynamic reality. When we take the definition of the word landscape to mean ‘the shape of the natural environment as perceived by human beings’, we can only conclude that we must take a closer look at those perceptions that shape that view; truly a fine task for an anthropologist. Apart from proposing a place for landscape in anthropology, I wish to plead as well for an interdisciplinary approach, because I think that a combination of scientific approaches is a good way to bring forward the dynamics of the ‘cultural organization’ of our natural environment. The sum of the parts strengthens the whole. In this chapter, I will consider a number of relevant viewpoints within anthropology by means of discussing a number of recent publications, explain my take on the concept as I developed it during my investigations on two estates, and finally I will merge these into a reflection on the meaning of landscape in our present-day society.
Landscape in Anthropology: from Describing Locations to ‘Dwelling Perspective’ Landscape is a way of seeing the world. – Cosgrove (1984) Publications in anthropology often start with a description of the landscape in which the researcher has performed his research. Mostly it concerns a list of the geographical location, the physical characteristics of the landscape and soil use. I always get the impression that the author wishes to get the physical facts out of the way as soon as possible, to be able to proceed with the ‘heart of the matter’, such as religion, kinship and roles. Often, the approach to the use of the landscape is distant and clinical and perception stays out of the 21 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
picture altogether, both for the researcher and his subject. One interesting exception to the rule is the man who can be considered one of the founders of anthropology as an academic discipline: Bronisław Malinowski (1884–1942). In the famous introduction to his book (1922) he addresses the reader with the following words, which in the mean time have attained cult status: ‘Imagine yourself suddenly set down’. He invites the reader to imagine what the landscape looked like and how he perceived it as a researcher. Further inroads into cultural analysis of landscape have not really been made since, although during the 1970s and 1980s there has been a gradual increase in interest in the relations between communities and ‘nature’. Cultural-ecological perspectives were dominant: mostly the publications concerned territoriality and systems of land use, i.e. landscape as a ‘collection of food sources’. Additionally there was some interest in the mythical landscape, but mostly concentrating on the far edges of the world. A comparative anthropological perspective stressing aspects of meaning instead of just food provisioning has in my view been lacking for quite some time. In their 1995 publication, however, Hirsch and O’Hanlon expressly put the concept back on the anthropological agenda. Hirsch in his opening essay argues that within anthropology the landscape suffered the same fate as the body. It was considered as a ‘constant’ that merited no further analytical attention. He shows that we are dealing here with a solidly entrenched Western ontology surrounding the concept of landscape. The difficulty lies in the double connotation of the word. If we compare the definitions of a few leading Dutch dictionaries, we arrive on the one hand at ‘region or place’ and on the other at ‘painting of a landscape’. Hirsch calls to mind the words of Keith Thomas: ‘the initial appeal of rural landscape was that it reminded the spectator of landscape pictures’ and that ‘indeed the scene was only called a “landscape” because it was reminiscent of a painted “landskip”; it was “picturesque” because it looked like a picture’ (Thomas 1984:265 as quoted in Hirsch and O’Hanlon 1995:2). Ton Lemaire stresses the same point by stating that ‘after five centuries of landscape painting and poetry we are so accustomed to the landscape that we have forgotten that both the concept and the images of landscapes are cultural constructs of modern European society, manifestations of a very special historical relation of man to nature’ (1997:6). Landscape is a matter of perspective, because it presents itself to the viewer, to a person. This is why the quote by Cosgrove mentioned earlier is so applicable: we are dealing with viewing the world, but also a special way of viewing, as the word ‘landscape’ has a specific historical origin. In his essay Hirsch argues that we should be critical of ‘the landscape as a Western 22 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
construct’ and compare it to other cultural notions of foreground and background. Hirsch is of the opinion that the notion of an everyday foreground and an idyllic background is a universal thought pattern and that we should compare cultures for this notion. Although I greatly am in favour of this, I think we should still further the analysis of landscape experience to gain more insight. In addition to a mutual investigation on notions of foreground and background, we must look for local Western views to gain insight on how the Western landscape construct plays out on the level of our own community. The concept ‘meaning’ is of great importance when we wish to understand better how people interact with the landscape in which they live and why they consider some developments desirable and some detrimental. The landscape as it has been shaped through ages according to subsequent preferences and standards is an important factor in human existence. People interact continuously with the landscape in which they live. Both the present and the past are important here, since form and value of the landscape have been shaped by an accumulation of our forebears’ ideas. Nature has played various roles through history, ranging from ‘threatening’ and ‘indomitable’ to ‘useful space’ and ‘pleasure garden’. Nature was tamed by man and changed into an organized and planned surrounding, where the word ‘landscape’ came to stand for the kind of arrangeable nature known from landscape paintings. Earlier we have pointed to the fact that a mutual relationship came into existence between arranged landscapes on the one hand and imaginary landscapes on paintings – the representations – on the other. As Ingold states: ‘Although the invented artefact (the framed picture) and the dwelt-in terrain are clearly different things, it is surely no accident that at a certain moment in history, both were brought together under the single rubric of landscape’ (1997:29). Nature was used for the benefit and entertainment of man, where especially the well-to-do in our society could enjoy the landscape: ‘Expeditions into the countryside, by train, by steamboat, or on foot were based on an idea of collecting beautiful landscapes. Planned footpaths, guidebook listings, and newly erected sightseeing platforms structured the enjoyment of the scenery: “Look, here is another beautiful view!” People learned unconsciously to frame the landscape, to create closed spaces'. (Löfgren 1987:55) In Löfgren’s quote, we come across the pivotal concept of ‘view’ again: the meaning of landscape in my opinion must be seen in the views of inhabitants and shapers of landscapes on management and use. ‘View’ is an interesting term because it refers to both sensory perception as a viewpoint, just as ‘landscape’ refers simultaneously to something practical, namely that which 23 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
we can perceive, and to that perception’s background. It is difficult to translate this well-balanced term, but perhaps perspective will do. Landscape is not only shaped in a physical sense; the human component, the cultural organization of the arranged surroundings, merits serious attention. But how to get a hold of these wide-ranging perspectives on landscapes (the ‘views’) and the relationships between landscape and meaning? With regard to this, Ingold (1993:152-4) proposes a dwelling perspective: ‘I argue that we should adopt, in place of both the naturalistic view of the landscape as a neutral, external backdrop to human activities, and the culturalistic view that every landscape is a particular cognitive or symbolic ordering of space, what I call a “dwelling perspective”, according to which the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, have left there something of themselves. […] Thus, neither is the landscape identical to nature, nor is it on the side of humanity against nature. As the familiar domain of our dwelling, it is with us, not against us, but is not less real for that. And through living in it, the landscape becomes part of us, just as we are part of it'. The ‘dwelling perspective’ considers the landscape as a source and motivation from the past for the present, as a testament to the views and values of our forebears. The way in which they interacted with the landscape is in very direct contact with our present existence. Elements of the landscape have historical and often symbolical value. Experiencing the landscape involves choices and decisions that are taken with regard to arrangement and use. Cohen (1985:118) states that ‘people construct community symbolically, making it a resource and repository of meaning'. It is the anthropologist’s challenge to localize this meaning and make it transparent. An interdisciplinary approach will be useful in recording experience and perception of a landscape. Notions from the theories of archaeology, (cultural) history, geography, anthropology, environmental psychology and cultural philosophy should be combined to better understand the dynamics of a landscape, or, to quote Bender (1996:3): ‘Landscape should be contextualised. The way in which people – anywhere, everywhere – understand and engage with their worlds will depend on the specific time and place and historical conditions. Operating therefore at the juncture of history and politics, social relations and cultural perceptions, landscape has to be a concept of high tension. It also has to be an area of study that blows apart the conventional boundaries between the disciplines’. 24 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Estate and Landscape: a Kaleidoscope of ‘Views’ This Castle hath a pleasant seat. – Macbeth 1.6 The word ‘landscape’ has always enjoyed a positive connotation, since its origins lie in shaping the natural environment into a manageable and useful arrangement, and hence in a pictorial representation of pleasant, bucolical spaces available to man’s leisure. Mach (1993) shows that in his case it is not so much a landscape of leisure as of shame. In the aftermath of World War Two, the Polish communist regime moved a large group of Poles from the territories lost to the Soviet Union to areas annexed in the west of the country. This re-placement model now comes across as hopelessly simplistic, since mountain people were, without further thought, directly transferred to regions that had entirely different characteristics, resulting in widespread feelings of up-rootedness in these formerly German territories. The inhabitants took with them their experience of their former landscape and draped it as a nostalgic layer over their new surroundings and developed next to no emotional attachment to the landscape in which they are still living. The result is a region in which young people are directly encouraged to find happiness elsewhere and where statues of Lenin still stand tall, long after the end of communism: the population simply does not care. Mach rightly pointed out the existence of positive and negative relationships to the landscape. Realizing that at first I had been entirely focused on ‘positive’ landscape emotions, I decided to investigate how a ‘traditionally pleasurable’ landscape really is experienced. I visited two estates, one in the south of England (Kent) and one in the east of The Netherlands (Achterhoek) to verify whether these estates really were as uncomplicated as they appeared at first sight. Before moving to the concrete proceedings and conclusions of my investigations, I will take a short moment to explain the investigation’s perspective. The investigation is cross-cultural in nature. Following anthropology’s proven tradition, I have compared a setting I did not know with one I did know from my own cultural background, leading to insight into both. Something that caught my attention is the fact that ‘The English Way of Life’, a celebration of the landscape by means of leading events such as the Country Living Fair, has become ever more popular in The Netherlands, which inspired me to compare an English estate with its Dutch counterpart. In England, I visited an estate owned by one of the largest nature preservation organizations in the country, about one hour’s drive south of London. As Kent 25 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
is sometimes known as ‘The Garden of England’, I endeavoured to compare this estate to one in ‘The Garden of the Netherlands’, i.e. the region of Achterhoek. Here I visited an estate at the north of the region, near the city of Zutphen. I classified inhabitants and employees on the two estates into five categories: (former) owners, the managing organization’s indoors and outdoors departments, farmers and village inhabitants. Respondents answered questions on four themes: community feeling and management, consumption and conservation of the landscape. My investigation was interdisciplinary in nature because I feel, as I discussed earlier, that landscape needs and merits a multifaceted approach. In order to obtain a view on perception and cognition of landscape, I combined cultural anthropology with environmental psychology, aiming to investigate landscape experience within a Western context and compiling the perspective of people who on a day-to-day basis busy themselves with shaping and maintaining a ‘pretty landscape’. In my investigation, I was of the position that meaning can be found in word and image. This approach of course does preclude other senses than sight playing an important role in perceiving the landscape. Within the methodological perspective I chose, however, the combination of stories and imagination plays an important role. Environmental psychology, being the ‘study of the molar relationships between behaviour and experience and the built-up and natural environments’ (Bell et al. 1996:23), is indispensable when charting the ‘experienced’ landscape. Working with cognitive maps to approach the image component was an explorative but promising part of the investigation. What is a cognitive map? ‘Cognitive maps are a very personal representation of the familiar environment that we all experience, one might think of an individual’s finished cognitive map as representing a personal understanding of his or her environment’ (Bell et al. 1996:80). I have analyzed ten maps: five for each estate. I looked at the similarities and differences between the stories and the imaginations, performing a technical analysis according to the cognitive mapping model that Kevin Lynch devised (Bell et al. 1996:80-86), using structure, nodes, divisions of the plane; and the Kaplans’ perception analysis by means of their preference model, using aspects such as complexity, coherence and association (Bell et al. 1996:51-57).
26 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Kent and Achterhoek: Dynamics of the Coulisse Landscape I can never get it right according to someone, but I’ve got a bad memory, which helps. – The Head Gardener
Kent At the English estate we find an interesting situation from a management perspective. When the last owner died at the beginning of the 1970s, he bequeathed the central part of the estate to one of England’s best-known nature preservation organizations. There were a number of conditions: the estate’s landscape was to be conserved in the same style as it had been until then; a certain portion could not be changed at all; and his widow was to be allowed to live at the mansion for the rest of her life. The managing organization moved its regional offices to the mansion and made the widow its honorary administrator. To this day, the enormous impact of the decisions made then is still felt. Everyone expected the lady of the mansion, who at the bequeathing was well into her sixties, to gradually step back to pass away some years later in an entirely honorary role of grande dame. She did not step back at all, however. Rather, she remained actively involved in ‘her’ possessions’ management and celebrated her ninetieth birthday in robust health. A number of departments are involved in maintaining the estate’s landscape and we can see that during the years, a number of tension curves have appeared. The lady of the mansion is of the opinion that nothing should be changed at all, since that was her husband’s intention. She is well aware of the changes that in all probability will happen in the future, but strongly believes the existing picture should not be touched while she is alive. ‘Over her dead body’, and so it shall be. For their part, the managers of the organization feel that there already has been too long a period of stagnation. They realize of course they are bound hand and feet to the bequest’s conditions and the lady’s wishes. To them, the situation is precarious, for she is demanding, headstrong and well-connected to several persons in high places. The managers have to negotiate a way between the necessity of extensive maintenance, modern views on countryside management and the expectations of the many visitors, who come to the estate particularly to view its famous, picturesque gardens. The visitors would like to have a tea pavilion and a larger souvenir shop. As the managers indicate, it is a matter of finding a way of balancing the estate’s characteristics, visitor demand and the policy makers’ vision, to present the estate in a 27 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
responsible way and allow just enough commerciality without harming the presentation. An educational centre is within bounds, as are opening the house to visitors and staging an opera in the grounds, but a chip shop and a hotel are not. Handling how an estate is perceived is very important. All persons involved have their own perception of what the landscape looks like and how it ideally ought to look. A number of elements in the landscape, such as the mansion, the vales, but also the presence of its ‘original’ inhabitant, really are symbols and as Cohen notes, the power of symbols lies in the fact that people are interconnected by the various, individual meanings they attach to the shared symbol. Everybody is working on the same object, but with differing angles and interests.
Figure 3 – England: behind an apparently immutable landscape lies a world of visions and decisions.
The outdoors department’s staff realizes that some interests and viewpoints can only be reconciled with difficulty, if at all. Apart from the fact that maintaining the grounds is very difficult when someone disagrees or when there are too many levels on which decisions are taken, it is not really easy either to develop a coherent vision on what kind of estate the organization 28 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
should present to the public. The local gardeners have to deal with a landscape consultant from the overarching organization, the local managers and the lady of the mansion, who still views the garden as her private property. They often joke about introducing plants on wheels, since everybody keeps changing the plans all the time. In the old days, what the owner said went, but nowadays almost everybody has an opinion they have to listen to. They see their pride of work in danger of perishing, since the lady of the mansion prohibits using fertilizer when this really is necessary; furthermore, she demands open vistas while diminishing in stature by the year. The outdoors staff, who are responsible for the gardens and the shrubbery, feel the organization has become entangled in a process of preserving what can be preserved and not stopping to think creatively how a living estate can be actively conserved in the future. Of course a landscape and its view are not static, the outdoor department knows; one must think of the style of preserving and the complete picture. Visitors come visit the grounds with a stereotypical image of the countryside in mind and the challenge really lies in taking them on a tour through the landscape to show them how people live and work there. A romantic image is fine, but the greater educational value lies in slightly adjusting that picture without denying it altogether. The farmers have noticed as well that the social structure has changed. There are fewer farms than there used to be, and furthermore less people work on these remaining farms. In the old days, there was an estate farm that catered for the mansion; additionally, there were separate farms for cattle and crop, particularly for growing hop. Nowadays, the estate has two kinds of farmers: those that are employed by the organization and that are maintained more or less cosmetically; and those that live on areas still owned by the family and who have been placed in a trust. All farmers are subject to the policies of the area manager. The villagers have rather mixed feelings on the way the managing organization deals with the landscape and the local population. This year, a bypass will be built to relieve the villageâ€™s high street. Everybody is looking forward to the village no longer being cut in two by the traffic-burdened road; but on the other hand, the bypass will completely ruin the view of the valley, which also is the location of the local church. The managing organization has donated a tract of land to enable the bypassâ€™s construction, but has not consulted the local population at all. A new relationship between the estate and the village has arisen out of the disappearance of former power structures, but this relationship feels like a vacuum, since the new owners of the estate offer no social platform for the population and have not been willing to analyze local sentiment and fit into the new situation. There is no 29 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
neighbourhood program or open day on which the local population is invited to the castle. Of course, in the past the previous owner had the right to divest tracts of land without consultation, but even then the estate could not do so when this would ruffle too many feathers. The times have changed and the managing organization must clearly think of a fitting way to inform the local population and involve them in everybodyâ€™s common interest.
Achterhoek The Achterhoek estate has a slightly different management structure. At the end of the 1970s, the local baron decided the situation had to change. He and his family still lived in the mansion, but this had become too costly; additionally, there were some personal reasons for moving. They then moved to a small house at the back of the estate, while in the meantime a new destination had been found for the mansion and the surrounding gardens. After considering a number of options, such as turning the mansion into a restaurant or an office, the baron decided to entrust the estate to a foundation that occupies itself with conserving country houses. It was his wish that the estate receive a cultural destination and in cooperation with the foundation, the mansion was turned into a museum. This museum, with the surrounding gardens, nowadays is a public enclave within a private estate. The managing organization, which consists of a director-conservator at the main offices and a local representation by a mansion managing married couple, have seen the benefits of being in harmonious contact with the baron, who is a source of information on the estate and whose cooperation and presence is beneficial to the working climate on the mansion. In turn, the baron is glad that the mansion is in good hands and being preserved well. Still, he would have been happier if things had been different. He is a realist and knows the times have changed, but on the whole he would have preferred to still be living in the mansion. For this estate as well the view of what an estate should look like is very strong. The social structure and the image are for many people two sides of the same coin. An estate should have pastures lined with wood banks and vistas towards the mansionâ€™s tower in the distance. The central part of the estate is visited most and many respondents told me that it is there that they find the image they are looking for, and that this is why the image can be easily maintained.
30 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 4 â€“ In the Achterhoek region too, new decisions must be made to preserve the coulisse landscape.
Here as well, both those who have worked on the estate in the old days and the farmers indicate that the reality behind the pretty coulisse landscape is far more dynamic and possibly less romantic than most people believe. A landscape is not static and should therefore not be approached as such. At this Achterhoek estate we find an interesting tension curve caused by the fact that managing an estate like this is costly, leading to constant searches for new solutions. The power balance has shifted in favour of the farmers, and responsibilities are not as clear-cut as they used to be. All inhabitants feel a connection with the landscape and realize constructive maintenance is needed to keep the park landscape intact. The baron used to employ a large number of staff to this end, but nowadays this burden often ends up at the farmers. The farmers for their part are willing to cooperate in conserving the landscape, but wish to see these activities to be part of a higher level of conference and appreciation. The farmers need to expand their business to be able to farm in a modern way. The baron has merged farmsteads to offer his tenants a real chance, but has in return demanded that the landscapeâ€™s outlook remain unharmed. So dung storage must be subterraneous and a new shed should preferably be thatched. 31 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The Cognitive Maps In the previous paragraphs, I discussed my choice for a classification into five clusters of respondents. Using cognitive maps resulted in some ten personal ‘views’. The two series of five maps each that I analyzed proved to overlap in that there are couples of maps that share a lot of similarities. This crosscultural result, where the correspondences affirm the cluster classification of the stories, but also surpasses, seems to argue for a personal approach.
Figure 5 – Cognitive map of the Kent estate as drawn by one of the respondents.
An example of such a set of maps is shown in figures 5 and 6 (a number of geographical names have been removed to safeguard anonymity). The example shows two maps that are almost geographical in nature. I discovered that these maps offer an accurate representation of the respondents’ stories, but more interesting was the kind of image they gave. The compositions are very coherent and stress the merging of important locations and the total structure. Their stories already clearly indicated that managing an estate and choosing a certain image for the landscape cannot be considered apart from each other. The fact that this notion reappears in both locations in such a strong fashion, argues for an individual approach to be able to better understand the larger picture. 32 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 6 â€“ Cognitive map of the Achterhoek estate, drawn by one of the respondents.
From the maps aspects emerged that I never could have seen using stories alone. Story and picture enhance each other and a group classification may be practical from an analytical point of view, but certainly is not the be-all and end-all. Precisely the combined visions of all those involved show where the bottlenecks are. In many cases, people draw something approximating a geographical representation, but it is interesting to see that at both estates there were persons who rather drew a very direct, picturesque and emotional impression. Figure 7 refers to a valley in the English situation that is threatened by a new bypass. The vicar of the village involved put it in words quite elegantly when 33 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
he said the structure of the landscape as a whole seems to protect in an almost therapeutic manner. From a perception point of view, the cognitive maps seem to be the nodes of the changes that both estates are currently undergoing.
Figure 7 – An emotional response to the bypass threatening the surroundings, drawn by one of the respondents.
Between Desire and Reality: the Meaning of Landscape The black box of landscape requires ‘opening’ and its contents themselves brought into view. – Ingold (1997) The social circumstances at the two estates I investigated has been undergoing many changed in recent history. New possibilities have arisen, but at the same time new problems as well. The ‘former’ owners have moved to a new position that involves more than could be rationally expected. We are dealing here with a deeply entrenched feeling of ‘belonging’, which however has taken on a new character in the course of the years. The estates have shown themselves to be dynamic in nature, but at the same time to be at a turning point between old and modern times. The relationships between the ground-owning families and the farmers and other inhabitants has been 34 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
normalized and new parties have arrived at the scene that have caused new developments. One could make the observation that the English estate is better off than its Dutch counterpart, because the future is more clearly defined there. On the other hand, one could make a case for the Dutch estate, considering the current situation is far more in harmony and less subject to tension, especially since the mansion has already received its final destination during the lifetime of its last inhabitant. In both cases however, we see enormous changes in the social system that lies beneath the estates’ landscapes. Whereas in the old days the mansion’s family determined what went, nowadays there is a new balance of power that allows for more initiative, but also more doubt. The landscape still needs to be maintained, but seems more vulnerable now that more forces exert their influence on it. The situation has become a lot less ‘natural’ than some fifty years ago. The estates’ inhabitants and maintainers have proven to be very creative and willing to preserve that landscape in which they live and work and to which they are very attached. There is a shift in balance going on, for which all parties will need to work together to find a new mutual equilibrium. Landscape deserves a more prominent place within anthropology and the social sciences in general. We should be looking not only for the meaning of landscape in faraway places, but also to the emotional relationship modern Western man has with landscape. Ingold’s approach can bring to light perspectives that cannot be easily explained otherwise and environmental psychology can be useful in the areas of ‘image’ and ‘imagining’. The (cognitive) picture people have of the landscape in which they live is important and should not only be approached from a purely verbal point of view, but also in image; and furthermore not only at group level, but also at the personal level. Landscape is more than a physical given; it is also the organized environment that is perceived within a social structure, based on ideas and expectations. The small country that is The Netherlands has been endowed with a wide range of landscapes and it is quite a responsibility to maintain and preserve these. In my opinion, it is the anthropologist’s task to show the dynamic and mutual connection between the landscape and its inhabitants, that we may understand how people shape nature into an organized and meaningful environment. The insights gained may affirm or contradict the policies chosen. Anthropologists should, together with representatives of other disciplines, take to the field to inventory the various perspectives. By means of charting the cultural biography of a landscape, the various disciplines can show which developments in spatial planning are experienced as desirable and which are 35 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
not. ‘Real nature’, ‘new nature’: we must not ruin our environment, but not cuddle it to death either. Large-scale project, both in spatial planning and nature development, are doomed to remain a poorly understood quantity in our society when they are not placed within an historical and meaningful context. Landscape is not ‘something’, it is a way of seeing and viewing.
36 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
3. The Art of Seducing Co-written with Joks Janssen In this essay we propose to discuss the following questions: (1) (2)
How can the changes in the Brabant countryside be explained in a spatial sense? How can this dynamic reality be guided in a caring way, allowing for a high-quality culture landscape to emerge?
These questions we think can only be answered when taking into consideration the radical changes the spatial policy for the rural area, which has been increasingly become regionalized. Because of this, provinces, regional cooperation initiatives and municipalities become increasingly involved in planning issues for the countryside. Landscape can be a binding force to link the interests of all parties involved. It is one of the last remaining distinguishing qualities of the rural area, since city and countryside have grown closer in social-cultural, economic and psychological areas into a ‘countryscape’, an amalgamation of countryside and landscape. Urban residents primarily have a landscape-oriented interest in the countryside. To more and more people, countryside equals landscape. Van der Ziel (2006) states that ‘the countryside is essentially linked to the agricultural landscape’. Connected values are leisure, space and green. The landscape has also become a product in the battle for the modern consumer’s attention. To urbanites, the countryside has increasingly received a touristic, leisure value. This can be explained by the emergence of an ‘experience society’, in which processes of experience and imagination become important (Metz 2002).
Countryside Dynamics The countryside is subject to intensive planning policies that aim to enhance the quality of living and the environment. Regions try to distinguish themselves by means of regional identity, taking a cue from the cities, which do the same using city marketing (see inset 1). Identity should in this case also be considered culturally as a carrier of a given community’s history and values (Cohen 1985). 37 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
According to Bijsterveld, this strategy can only be successful when regional identity:
Appeals to community feeling, roots, trust and recognizability Offers room for appropriation at multiple levels for multiple groups Works as a binding force to the inside and recognizable mark to the outside Offers chances for profitable cooperation between urban and rural parties Is linked to symbols and spatial structures Is propagated by pioneers and mediators: a vanguard of public and private parties. Inset 1: Going to market with Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest) A group of sixty entrepreneurs has initiated the project ‘Branding Het Groene Woud’ (Branding the Green Forest) to market this region, situated between the Dutch cities of Eindhoven, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Tilburg. Its stated aim is to stimulate the regional economy by marketing regional products under the regional Groene Woud label, while at the same time enhancing the environmental quality (see also www.hetgroenewoud.com). A related aim is to create a breakthrough in the current compartmentalization of economic sectors, hopefully leading to innovating, sector-surpassing projects. The initiative is being supported by the Province of North Brabant and the Innovatie Platform NGO.
A Need for Images The stress laid on experiencing the consumer landscape can lead in extreme cases to viewing the landscape as a diorama: a whole of sights and experiences that can be constructed and manipulated (Beckers 1999). The black box of landscape requires ‘opening’, Tim Ingold (1997) once wrote, so it may become clear what the dimensions are of manufacturability. The parties that concern themselves with preserving cultural heritage often have a strong propensity for conservation and glorifying traditional properties. On the occasion of the 900th anniversary of the foundation of the Duchy of Brabant (Brabant 900), investigation was held into the typically Brabant aspects of its inhabitants. Analytically speaking this of course sells short the dynamic and broad cultural scene in the province, but nevertheless there is a clear need for cultural-historical reference images. 38 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
In a cultural sense, the landscape has proven to be an important platform as well. The 1990s saw a quest for ‘regional identity’. Magazines dedicated to specific regions appeared on newsstands, Normaal was no longer the only musical group to sing in regional dialect and young people felt no longer the need to downplay their countryside background. On the contrary, being from the countryside became a kind of a badge of honour, as evidenced in the rallying cry of PSV Eindhoven football supporters: ‘Boeren!’ (‘Farmers!’). Local communities and regions have been looking for distinguishing factors and identity. The countryside’s traditions, rituals and symbols have less and less a direct relationship with agriculture. Stories and images from the past are appropriated, and often historical facts are bent to fit their current usefulness or new elements are construed and added (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983).
Urban–Rural Relationships The influence the city and its inhabitants have on the countryside is ever increasing. The number of farms now inhabited by ‘former’ city-dwellers has seen a steep incline (see inset 2). This trend will continue for the next years, not only creating new urban-rural relationships, but loosening the links between the traditional functions of the countryside. The past’s rural certainties are therefore no longer a given, leading, according to Marsden (1998) to the emergence of a post-modern countryside, ‘a rural world where the certainties of agricultural production as the traditional “rural hub” are giving way to a much more polyvalent rural scene and regulatory structure’. The interaction between urban and rural people can be improved by developing an urban agenda for the countryside, such as the Western Netherlands initiative ‘Stad Zoekt Boer’ (City Seeks Farmer), a six-idea agenda drawn up by the Amsterdam School of Management (ASOM, www.asom.org) as the result of some fifteen round-table meetings.
39 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Inset 2: AtelierOverijssel (OverijsselWorkshop) AtelierOverijssel (www.atelieroverijssel.nl) is a workshop in which stakeholders contribute to improving and preserving spatial quality in the Dutch province of Overijssel. Cities and villages are neatly seamed; new areas are being implemented for water storage and nature; farmsteads are converted for countryside living; new provincial roads and belt roads around built-up areas have far-reaching consequences. AtelierOverijssel’s aim is to provide an impulse to the dialog on these changes – specifically on their spatial impact. The Workshop was created on the instigation of the province, but has an independent position, offering parties advice when consulted and of its own accord. It is not an organization that judges after the fact whether plans and initiatives met the standards for spatial quality; rather, the Workshop actively provides examples, impulses and inspiration before and during planning processes, building a “repertoire” that gives an increasingly good view on what spatial quality is and can mean to the inhabitants of Overijssel and its constituent regions. Farmsteads, for instance, are a major visual aspect of the rural areas, being an form of settlement that enters into direct relationships with the surrounding landscape. At this moment in time, farmsteads are subject to great changes in dynamics: scale, use, meaning, the way they are seen are changing rapidly. Processes such as scale, expansion of agriculture and the increasing number of non-agricultural inhabitants in the countryside autonomously contribute to change. The central question here is: (how) do these bottom-up developments lead to new spatial qualities? How a robust Between Hope and Fear spatial landscape structure of farmstead nodes can be developed as a carrier of landscape is at the heart of current investigations. The question now is what position the various layers of administration take in this complex process of transformation. Apart from praiseworthy ambitions to create integrated plans for the rural area, the provincial governments cannot be responsible for the overall direction. There is no such thing as total control, since there are so many spatial design challenges that the direction flowchart for this process would end up entirely black. This should however not be interpreted as a scenario of doom and hopelessness for spatial design, but as a sense of liberation. For in the change towards a more consumer-oriented countryside the crux lies in how the province can deal with the multitude of planning challenges, since here a great number of opportunities is waiting to be uncovered that can, if handled properly, lead to a large-scale transformation process that will shape the identity of the future Brabant countryside. 40 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The shift in control from the national government towards the regions has also regionalized spatial design knowledge and tools. At the regional level the question now is how, using what sources of knowledge and means, to utilize the newly-received position and to shape a new, high-quality culture landscape. To the province, directing the execution of spatial organization projects is a relatively new task. As such, the Reconstruction forms a test case. The central issue is how the national ambitions can be achieved decentralized. Of course, there is already functioning policy in place. We wish to state however that the complex practice of rural planning is not readily susceptible to a host of external stimuli. Entrepreneurs and inhabitants are willing, but cannot always see from their position what is on offer by way of development programs, and hence are not able to fully profit from these programs, leading to many well-intentioned initiatives to remain underdeveloped. A case in point is the Reconstruction programme, which got bogged down in its own programmatic starting points. Originally intended to control future spread of livestock diseases, the programme was embraced by all sorts of parties as the answer to all rural development questions. Reconstruction was equalled with regional development, but certainly was not intended as such. It is difficult to stand on a podium and be credible if the wrong act has been rehearsed. The Reconstruction gets stranded on the image of the countryside. Reality is stubborn, the Brabant rural area has a mind of its own; which in itself is not a disadvantage, since it shows the great resilience of its inhabitants and entrepreneurs, we are dealing with people who are willing to work on good solutions themselves. Viewing from a broader perspective of sustainable regional development, the province should be thinking less in terms of rules and regulations, and more of promoting policies that create preconditions and safeguard quality. There is a demand for â€˜directionâ€™, but here it is of great importance not to think in terms of finance but rather of initiative. We have seen a number of high-quality initiatives. Regions are eager to get their name known, making the provinceâ€™s palette livelier in the process. The Peel region, for instance, is aiming to put its open and somewhat rough landscape characteristics to good use to draw in the more adventurous recreants. We feel here are some great opportunities to work together with the neighbouring region of North Limburg, which is facing the same questions. The Groene Woud (Green Forest) and Kempen (Campina) regions are focusing on marketing landscape and regional products. The main challenge here is to combine horizontal area development and vertical chains. In general, the main question is what the distinguishing qualities are for the various regions and how these can be an engine for development. 41 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Relativistic Spatial Planning The current planning instruments, however, offer not enough possibilities to support these developments, to pass on to the next generations a sustainable high-quality landscape (Janssen 2006). In many cases, landscape is the passive result or residue of sectoral and spatial actions. Landscape as an area of policy is spread over a multitude of departments, regulations and instruments. The concert of spatial planning, nature conservation and landscape management in practice proves to be insufficient to steer the continuous and various changes in the landscape, enhance existing qualities and add new values and qualities. In this process of transformation, the province should strive for an elegant balance between restriction and freedom, i.e. a balance between forms of development spatial planning and procedural spatial planning. In the course of the long-term move from a production landscape towards a consumption landscape and the corresponding demand for other forms of planning, the province needs to determine its course. Whereas the current planning development issues from an integrated future-oriented approach, the development tasks will be more a matter of gradual, open-ended spatial transformation. The need is felt for a perspective that links small-scale transformation such as the changes on the single farmstead to long-term spatial strategies such as creating and maintaining a regional landscape framework. Landscape cannot be determined and regulated anymore by means of sectors and zoning plans, but it can be gradually restructured. It is therefore important when creating planning policies to make use of existing forces shaping the landscape, meaning the logic involved in the contribution of actors (farmers, citizens, external parties) to the production of the landscape. By analyzing the kinds of logic at work behind the landscape transformations past and present, the structuring processes in the landscape can be controlled. After all, landscape is created by a qualitative interplay of actors within the space. Joining the actors that shape the space is not only pragmatic, but also necessary to promote their identification with and involvement in spatial planning. Inhabitants and actors should be invited to join the discussion on the future of their living environment. The landscape as an integrating frame can assist them to look beyond their own horizons and become aware of the relationship in both time and space. Although lot has already been said and written on the involvement of inhabitants in their living environment, most of it has remained mere rhetoric. The outside view, of specialists and policy 42 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
makers, has been dominant over the inside view of the inhabitants themselves. Their involvement is not only necessary for the support of any landscape strategy, but also to be able to use local knowledge and incorporate the inhabitants’ perception into the strategy. Additionally, artists may provide a fresh look on the area (see inset 3). Inset 3: Proeftuin Twente (Testbed Twente) In the Testbed Twente project (www.proeftuintwente.nl), the Kunstvereniging Diepenheim (Diepenheim Art Association) and SKOR (the Foundation for Art and Public Space) joined forces to address the cultural aspects of spatial planning in Twente. Central issue here was the – open – question what exactly constitutes the specific identity of Twente and how this identity can play a role in developing a perspective on the future of the region. Testbed Twente has turned out to be a successful attempt to investigate aspects of Twente identity and to use the results for future planning policy in the region. Artists have explored aspects of ‘Twente identity’ in all its fourteen municipalities. They were asked to apply an intuitive, refreshing approach to the theme, to have an open dialog with the local population and to produce varied end results. In another track, more systematic research was done on planning policy in Twente through the years (the READER), on the natural map of Twente (ATLAS) and how e.g. travelers perceive Twente (GUIDE). All findings combined constitute a wealth of information of the past and the present of Twente and have formed the starting point for three development teams, that have made designs for Twente in the year 2030 from the viewpoint of their separate disciplines. We feel it is important to apply a twofold strategy to the subject of rural development. On the one hand, it is advisable to cast a critical eye on the challenges of planning and designing, on the other with empathy towards the social-cultural developments that are happening in parallel with the planning challenges, as we are dealing with changes in a rural community. As Boelens (2006) has it, ‘we are in the post-planning era’. New dynamics and new spatial challenges require a new, open approach. The old ‘planning regimes’ are no longer sufficient. Large-scale diversification and diffusion have emerged on the spatial plane, leaving expertise no longer obvious and creating a need for storytelling that offers direction. Being flexible and working on multiple planes requires a poetic discourse rather than technical regulations and documents. 43 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
New Opportunities In conclusion, we see the following opportunities emerging:
Make a clear distinction between collective and individual/private challenges, between dominant and secondary spatial process and also between challenges with a long-term planning horizon (50 to 100 years) and a short-term planning horizon (5-10 years). Taking these as your starting points, draw up a list of priorities. Develop a project-driven trio to better position spatial quality: framing, shaping and checking planning. Especially a framework for assuring spatial quality in planning at the municipal level is sorely needed. Create an interdisciplinary, flexible top team for the Brabant countryside to provide knowledge to the various regions and promote regional processes by means of examples and best practices. This team should expressly not become a ‘fixed formula’, but provide support by means of qualities present in the area itself. Create workshops, round tables and sessions with those parties involved in a certain region or task. Gather learning experiences and knowledgerelated questions, that these may become available as a canon of development for other parties and initiatives. Within the province, there are many parties that are willing to participate and that can shoulder the opertationasational aspects. Recognize the cultural implications of current transformation questions and involve artists, designers and creative lateral thinkers to this task to allow the cultural dimensions and present-day culture a place in the spatial planning process. A good way to do this would for example be to expand on the initiatives of the Noord-Brabantse Kunststichting (North Brabant Art Foundation) in its project Cultural Planning. The local and provincial layers of administration should be promoting and integrating partners. Municipalities have received operational powers and responsibilities for local spatial planning development. The province’s challenge will lie in communicating and explaining the larger agenda.
44 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
4. The Story behind the Story International Examples of Sustainable Area Development
Introduction ‘I’m looking for the “story behind the story”’, I always explained to my contacts and respondents as I sat with them at a meeting table or walked with them through their areas. Each region I visited in one way or another was occupied with ‘sustainable (re-)development’ of their area. The official stories are told in leaflets, books and other promotional materials. What I wanted to know was, however, how the surrounding process is organised: what were the starting points, how do you determine a region’s ‘value’ and how do you handle aspects such as ‘branding’, the magic word for all area-related developments, or so it seems. The overarching aspect to the research and the accompanying field trips has always been ‘regional identity’ – a rather difficult, somewhat sticky and yet intangible concept, judging from all scientific articles on the subject. In practice, usage of the term is no less complex, since on the one hand nearly everybody has some kind of notion or feeling associated with it, yet on the other hand no-one feels it can be readily applied. In the text of this chapter, I have distinguished between two concepts: region (as a greater geographical whole, as used in literature and as the specific cultural-historical entity), and area (in a more general sense, or ‘part of’).
Layout of this Chapter I have expressly tried to keep this article short and to the point, in order for it to be easily assimilated. There are simply four sections, of which the first three deal with the countries Germany, United Kingdom and France and the region(s) I visited. The last section consists of a concise guideline, which includes ten core observations on (branding and) regional development. The first three sections all conclude with an enumeration of the most inspiring insights and experiences. In all of the regions I visited I have consciously looked not just at the Lifescape-related initiatives (the guiding programme), but also at the broader context. Many of the Lifescape experiences have already been documented in other ways, for example in Hill et al. (2007); here we are concerned with 45 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
further raising the profile of the Lifescape body of thought as a process of area development. The main text contains my observations based on the research performed. Quotes have been obtained from persons interviewed and are included for their expressiveness rather than to associate parts of the narrative with any individual person.
Orientation I think it is important to rise above the usage of the concept ‘regional identity’ in a purely folkloristic or national-symbolic meaning (with due respect, though, for tradition, because it can be an important driving force for a region’s biography); I am more concerned with how it works and how it is applied by the people themselves. The discussion on sense and nonsense of the usage of the concept ‘regional identity’ moves on the cutting edge of spatial and cultural sciences. The various researchers do not keep to the strict boundaries of their disciplines, which in any case leads to a good view into the complexity and usage of terminology for this subject. Kolen (2006) openly admits to not wanting to get his fingers burnt on the subject: ‘It enables individuals and groups to identify themselves extremely with geographically and historically deep histories. “Identity” as a concept can, therefore, be charming and appealing, yet at the same time a bit sticky and rather impenetrable.’ On the other hand, he sees opportunities to apply the concept in an alternative way, by means of a kind of “cross-grained” lateral thinking dynamic: deploy willing and passionate actors to play with the concept, in interplay with the area and its stakeholders. This agrees, coincidentally, with the recommendations Joks Janssen and I made in the previous chapter, in which we advised to also engage culturally cross-grained thinkers in processes of area development. Sustainability is conceptually linked to the 3 P Model: Planet, Profit, People. When these three are in balance, sustainable development is within view. I would like to add the P for Passion: without enthusiastic pioneers, there can be no spark to kindle the fire.
46 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Regional Identity: No Cure‐All Herngreen (2002) states that regional identity is an attribute of a living culture. This does, however, by no means go without saying, he stresses: ‘Some experts, policymakers and designers try to capture identity in closefitting definitions and uniform descriptions, in objective and reproducible properties, in technical specifications, in quantifiable aims, in designs and regulations. Not in stories, but in one story, in the story.’ Herngreen makes a very interesting point, for many regions are looking for an unambiguous story that is ‘easily sold’. He argues for an unchained and unchaining identity that shows us how to rid ourselves of the yoke of simplified identity. To Herngreen, identity is an interactive game, in which the actors match themselves against each other within a meaningful framework. A region’s identity can also be a very hampering force, as Herngreen puts it, because a static understanding of identity and the desire to nail it down within a fixed story brakes down and locks all possible development a priori. I found building blocks for working with storylines as a basis for a possible meaningful branding in a positioning of this relation as formulated by ArnoudJan Bijsterveld. According to Bijsterveld, preconditions for the application of regional identity in regional development are that it should:
Appeal to connection, being rooted, trust and recognisability Offer space for appropriation at multiple levels and by several groups Work as a binding force inward and as a identifying brand outward Offer chances for profitable cooperation between urban and rural partners Be linked to symbols and spatial structures Attract pioneers and mediators: a vanguard of public and private parties
47 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Urban Region Frankfurt: ‘Mainhattan’ ‘Frankfurt is the world’s smallest metropolis’
‘Drink for a better environment!’ Figure 8 – In Frankfurt attempts are made, in part thanks to the energetic input of the Lifescape project MainÄppelhaus, to sustainably develop and preserve the Green Belt around the city by supporting the apple wine culture. Private owners are encouraged to maintain their apple orchards, children are involved in the area and enthusiastic entrepreneurs try to market their products in innovative ways.
Since 1960, the Frankfurt region had the Regional Planning Community Untermain (Regionalplanungsgemeinschaft Untermain), an intermunicipal planning community that was created with the aim to reinforce the region. The community was intended to regulate the open and building spaces, as well as the traffic infrastructure. In 1965 the community issued the integral planning chart. One spearhead for development consisted of the so-called Green Corridors (Grünzüge), which were designed to provide the city with fresh air. The doings of the community were controversial: to this day, the current Planning Collective (Planungsverband) is associated with its predecessor’s green plan and called the ‘Hindering Collective’ (‘Verhinderungsverband’).
48 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
In 1975, a law was passed in the federal state parliament that stated that collaboration on the regional level was to be organised more by the municipalities. A body called Frankfurt Regional Collective (Umlandverband Frankfurt, UVF) was established, which covered a smaller area: the cities of Frankfurt and Offenbach and the districts of Hochtaunus, Main-Taunus and Offenbach. The working organization that came into being as a result of this law was established in 1980, and in due course delivered a master zoning plan and a landscape plan. The most recent history of the Collective started around 2000, when a new federal state government took office, led by the Christian-Democrats. The UVF was discontinued and replaced as of 31 December 2001 by the current Planning Collective, whose responsibilities predominantly lie in the field of spatial planning. Despite all zoning plans surrounding the Green Corridors and other green areas, the UVF already noticed that the green areas within the city were being gnawed at by such means as ‘exceptional permits’. The green space was played with for all kinds of political purposes and interests, which resulted in entire stretches being lifted from the plan or being filled with buildings after all. People felt that a new approach should be defined; an approach that was closer to the population and that could bring about more regional awareness. This new approach was given shape in the project State Preservation for Regional Parks (Staatsschütz für Regionalparken). The project’s aims were twofold: preservation/ conservation of the Green Corridors as they had been defined, and improvement of ‘regional awareness’ by means of local projects the population could really see happen. The Regional Park, therefore, was intended to help develop a positive image of the region. Projects have been developed in the landscape with which people can identify themselves, such as a system of avenues that lead people past cultural-historical places of import. Historic buildings were restored or rebuilt in a historicising manner (watchtower, chapel, early industrial kiln). Later on, a similar landscape-related cultural-historical approach was followed on multiple locations and in several parks. In Hattersheim, for example, a rosarium was restored because no-one locally knew anymore that the town had once been a focal point of rose culture. Initially, a given location’s core qualities and elements were determined together with experts; in later stage, the UVF has always tried to initiate local projects in which the local population was emphatically invited to participate, especially concerning active maintenance. Also, sponsoring projects were established, in which parties, institutions and groups co-financed. As such, there was always an effort to involve private money in the projects. 49 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The pilot project itself was a commercial enterprise (GmbH, a type of limited company) and made contracts with farmers, who took on additional activities. The pilot company deployed experts, developed plans that matched with the community and performed acquisition for participation. A surprise that emerged was that within the Regional Parks the number of private initiatives grew ever larger to realise things that were not yet part of the plan, but could mean a further reinforcement of it. An entire range of activities was initiated, such as performing historical role plays (Romans) at the newly established cultural-historical avenues, and a festival along the historical trade route from Frankfurt to Leipzig (Hohe Straße), featuring carriages. The latter example managed to be included in the Interreg-SAUL program, meaning that 50% of the money needed was funded by the Regionalpark GmBH and 50% by the European Union.
The Green Belt as a Unique Selling Point for the Urban Region “When the population says, ‘This is our Belt’, then it will be protected. If one attempts to impose from above by means of regulations, then for the authorities it might be just fine, but it will not come alive with the population. An identity should be developed.” The Green Belt is part of the Regional Parks project but predates it and has an original agenda of its own, namely protecting the green space around the city. In the Green Belt, the Planning Collective and the city of Frankfurt cooperate, and this approach has been extended to include the rest of the Regional Parks program (among which establishing a common and recognisable identity). The Green Belt as such is at a higher political level and never was intended to perform development projects. When this started to happen, money from the Regional Parks project was used (works of art, cultural-historical locations such as the “I Monument” [Ich-Denkmal]). Actually, three green belts may be discerned: a small at the location of the former city walls (established in 1901); a second (limited) one along the ring road boulevards; and lastly the ‘current’ Green Belt. A large project is in the process of execution to close the Belt (there is a gap in the southeast), which also includes the objective to make the entire Belt greener and start developments that fit the character of the location.
50 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Three major players are involved in this extensive project: the European Central Bank is developing new housing in property of cultural-historical importance (1930s market halls); the German rail company Deutsche Bahn is constructing new buildings at the location of an old, neglected station and developing new property nearby; and mail order giant Otto Versand, which has its historical roots here and wishes to continue doing business from here.
Figure 9 – The Green Belt has lovely views and interesting locations. The north-eastern part is exceptionally well endowed: the area known as Berger Hang not only offers a fascinating view of the city, it is also the most important part for apple wine production and from an ecological view. This guardhouse has been restored and there is good visitor support, although the latter sometimes is subject to conflicts of interest...
‘We have reviewed over a billion Euros in investments; it should not be too hard to include five to seven million in the project for the necessary green space. After all, it enhances the value of the property. The project should be positioned entirely different – not defensively, but offensively.’ The core question for this project is: how can the Belt be closed, enabling hikers and cyclists to travel its entire perimeter. The challenge lies in creating a so-called integral urban landscape. Within this scope, the project attempts to create a kind of green corridors between the Green Belt and the surrounding Regional Parks. To this end, acquisition of lands is an important spearhead, 51 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
for which acquisition and dispossession policies have been instigated. The Green Belt’s primary origin lies, however, in government policy; it is preserved by several parties within the city. A phenomenon which (unfortunately) rarely occurs is the creation of public-private constructions; current policy is very much geared towards preservation, in which development is only possible within the accorded zoning purpose. A possible area of tension occurs when politicians or parties in a new coalition claim to adopt the Belt as a whole, yet want to start development in locations within its area for political reasons. It is important to harness the population’s participation and decision-making power for the policy-making processes surrounding the Green Belt, especially when taking the identity question into consideration. Plans of individuals may sometimes pose a problem, but when people are gathered into a larger interest group, it will be easier for institutions such as the Environmental Department (Umweltamt) to make political points and resist unwanted activities or the other way around.
Apple Wine Culture: Historical and Modern Carrier of Identity Here as well, ‘regional product’ can be an important carrier. But, as someone from the spatial planning discipline observed, ‘A new market approach with room for niche innovation that arises from a coalition of actors and entrepreneurs does not yet seem to have gathered steam’. Still, in this field a lot of things are happening, but it is revealing that they are not always seen or recognised. At the Lohrberg hill in the northeast of the city, the MainÄppelhaus is situated (partly made possible by Lifescape), currently a non-profit association. In the near future, however, a GmbH will be established, which will run the store and the bar on a profit basis. The association will continue to perform educational and similar activities. The association’s visionaries even hope to use proceedings from the GmbH one day to (help) pay maintenance of the landscape. The association’s aims are twofold: firstly, to establish and maintain an information centre (Streuobstzentrum); and, secondly, to preserve and develop apple orchards (Streuobstwiesen). The association was formed to create a meeting place around the theme, where knowledge and skill come together in a pleasant way. Idealism is not the only driving force; the association does consider how economical factors can be introduced. Preserving biotopes using subsidies is not all; attempts are made to encourage multiple spatial developments by means of niche solutions. 52 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 10 â€“ At the Lohrberg, an important impulse is given to the apple wine culture as a carrier for sustainable area development. The centre includes an information point, a store that stocks regional products and regularly there are meetings, such as the Apple Wine Festival in the autumn. At the festival, the Harvest Queens are special guests. The Queens attend happenings such as this and with their presence represent their product groups and the area.
An economical problem arises from the fact that the apples that are being grown are too expensive by modern market standards, but a chain of producers has been formed who operate by surcharge marketing (Aufpreisvermarktung). Consumers pay slightly more for the product to enable wine producers to pass this profit on to the apple orchardsâ€™ owners, who are in turn encouraged to maintain their orchards. This way, for a small part of the market at least a closed cycle emerges, in which the apple orchard owner can receive more money and so yield better profit. Consumer awareness is linked to the regional product and so to landscape preservation. Owner participation in the apple processing program is voluntary. Some people use the apples they grow purely for their own consumption. Those that do participate, can bring in their apples on given days, and receive payment directly after processing. A major problem specific to the apple orchards is the (South German) inheritance system, in which for example a row of five apple 53 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
trees may be (jointly) owned by five separate people, giving rise to all sorts of (organizational) problems to those trying to preserve and maintain the orchards. Setting up a cooperative society, in which all participants should be consulted, is rendered virtually impossible. ‘Actually, it is people care we’re doing right here.’ One source of income that can be put towards the development of orchards is the fact that for every intervention in the landscape, owners must perform equalising measures or else pay a fee. The fees resulting from this are used for development and preservation in collaboration with the owners, increasing the value of their property. This is an example of indirect public-private cooperation. There is a link between being able to market the product and the possibilities for preservation of the orchards, but it is not a one-on-one relationship, as regional apple production is not sufficient to the wine producers: concentrate is being imported from Poland and China. An important additional economical point is the orchards’ value: many owners are speculating on increased value of their property as building land and as such are not interested in growing apples.
Culture and Marketing For this region, branding does not so much entail developing a ‘brand, as developing and rediscovering a story in the landscape as a carrier for sustainable area development. Important factors are developing a chain and a market for apple wine and related products, and incorporating this market in a broader discussion on the future of the area. A prime contributing factor in the establishing of the MainÄppelhaus has been the realisation that Streuobst is an important quality of Frankfurt; Streuobstwiesen are part of the local and regional identity, because they represent a tradition of apple wine and apple cultivation. A parallel reinforcement emerges: an apple wine economy still exists, because old apple varieties still exists, and there are older orchard owners who wish to transfer their knowledge on apple growing to the younger generation. Apple wine producer Jörg Stier is a true innovator: a symbiosis has emerged between encouragement, preservation and development. Stier organises wine-tasting events at restaurants he has selected and at his wine house to promote his – usually innovative – products and create support in the marketplace. Apart from these initiatives, Stier judges, there are many more possibilities to further raise the profile of apple wine and create combinations 54 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
with symbols, meetings and culinary activities. What is needed for this to happen are new ways of collaboration, not just with civilians and cultural institutions, but also with branches of trade that have money available. Additionally, recreational routes may be developed in cooperation with the local heritage museum (Heimatmuseum) and MainÄppelhaus. ‘We try to create a new and fresh definition of apple wine culture.’ Stier would like to create a kind of apple wine experience-cum-museum, but it should be honourable and based on the region itself. An information centre that collects articles on apple wine culture would be convenient. Additionally, Stier writes his own books on apple wine culture. In order to make apple wine culture attractive to younger generations, a well-known local cartoonist is brought in to design posters and labels.
Opportunities and Challenges from This Case
It is important to bring the Green Belt’s intrinsic importance across to the administrative layer: it is all to do with how a city wishes to position itself (inter)nationally. The entire mindset on a region should shift from ‘defensive’ to ‘offensive/attractive’: the Belt’s development is currently seen as quasi-charity-based rather than an economically viable opportunity. Many parties are involved, but the main challenge lies in bringing larger and smaller stories together and in connection with each other. The fragmentation of plots of land across multitudes of owners is something of a metaphor for the process of the entire region. A difficulty lies in the degree of professionalism and the process of professionalising itself: there are a number of professional employees, but many more volunteers. This makes program development and execution fairly difficult. Continuity of initiatives is an issue. There are opportunities for projects with sponsoring and developing an enterprise for new forms of marketing: by means of anchoring stories, a combination may be created of landscape, history and economy. This may well be a collaborative effort between public and private parties. The niche can deliver niche products: for instance, gift packs may be compiled for sale (Christmas boxes!). It will not be difficult to join in with existing (international) traditions, to breathe new life into forgotten traditions or encourage new traditions (new names and products).
55 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Marketing is more, however, than just encouraging cooperation and developing a product: it should be backed by an exciting and plausible story. The product itself, however good it may be, cannot achieve it on its own. A regional phenomenon are the Harvest Queens. Frankfurt and BergenEnkheim have their own apple wine queens and other villages have similar queens for other crops, such as pumpkins, onions and so on. These queens have a symbolic and representative role even today, because they represent the crop and the branch: they build a bridge between tradition and economy.
The New Forest: a Strong Brand in a ‘Well‐Defined Area’
Figure 11 – Map of the New Forest National Park.
Until the start of the twentieth century, the New Forest was a rough, undeveloped area where few dared to go. Its name is due to William the Conqueror, who in 1097 established “new” hunting grounds, hence the “New” Forest. In contrast to the association with woods, the New Forest does not consist of just woodlands, but also of heath and moorlands. The soil is very poor, resulting in nearly no arable farming taking place. 56 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Cattle present in the New Forest mostly wander around freely, also as a result of one of Williamâ€™s decrees. He did not want to feel restricted when hunting and so rules that cattle should be kept out of the way during the hunt. This meant that fencing cattle in was not allowed or any other form of demarcation in parcels. This decree exists to this day in the form of the Right of Common. The largest part of the New Forest nowadays is owned by the Crown and is managed by the Forestry Commission (a public body). The area is divided into a number of administrative and legal ownership and management bodies. As a whole, it resides under the District Council; within this arrangement, large part of it has received the status of National Park in 1998; large parts of the National Park are in turn owned by the Crown. The area still makes a distinct feudal impression, actually more akin to Scotland than to England. The division of tasks as it developed between the various managing parties is as follows: the Forestry Commission manages the trees and the soil; the National Park develops policy and manages recreational access to the area; and the District Council manages tourism. Up until World War Two, there virtually was no tourism management in the area and it was hardly needed, as not many people paid a visit anyway. Recreation and tourism ideally go hand in hand, but in recent times, tension has developed in the cooperation between the various parties in the area: an agreement has been drawn up in which the Council and the National Park have delineated who does what. Here a historically-grown sensitivity comes to light, as the National Park is relatively new, but the Council has already been working for twenty years on tourism policy. From the point of policy and management, there is little desire or room to change much of the New Forest. Tourism is the biggest challenge, since it influences the entire area, both physically and socially. â€˜Managing tourism is managing everything.â€™ In the beginning of tourism policy-making in the area, which far preceded all theories on sustainability, a simple approach was needed to manage tourism. Proceeding from this view, the tourism destination manager has laid down his vision on cooperation in the field of tourism in the area in the so-called VICE model (Visitors, Industry, Community, Environment, metaphorically named for the vice, the tool that keeps everything together). The model was developed from the philosophy that you cannot build a relationship as such with the physical surroundings themselves, but you can do so with the people living and working there. The VICE model is a strategic management tool for tourism management. Tourism is about communication, he argues, and so about 57 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
creating and maintaining relationships. Everybody holds a piece of the jigsaw, which can only be completed together to sustainably develop the area. All various actors have a right and a role, but the whole must be in balance. ‘For me, sustainability is a balanced set of relationships between all of the people who are involved. Sustainability never stops. You can never say you’re there, because it’s just like life.’ – Tourism destination manager The New Forest is an easily recognisable region, both historically and geographically. It is well known to many people, which makes branding it both easy and difficult. As soon as you enter the area, you notice that it is ‘different’, and this makes that all parties concerned are enthusiastic about maintaining this characteristic. The New Forest is one of the best-developed regions of its kind in the country, because it is a socially and environmentally strong brand. Economically, there are some aspects left to be developed. Recently, the New Forest Ordnance Survey map started selling more copies than that of popular favourite, the Lake District. Despite the area’s relatively small size, this means that it is felt to be an important location. It is a National Park based on feeling. The New Forest is not a region that needs to reinvent or redefine itself. Having a strong brand can, however, be a hindering factor in development (dialectics of progress). The VICE model has, on the contrary, kept things moving in establishing relationships and developing plans. ‘Each community has to be VICEd’, as the tourism destination manager has it.
Opportunities and Challenges from This (Sub)Case
A National Park usually is a newcomer to the area, often featuring slightly different boundaries than the original cultural-historical region. The accompanying organization should be smart and sensitive in fitting in and adapting to the existing situation. This is unfortunately not always the case, and neither was the New Forest. Having a strong brand can be a hampering factor. In tourism, too much attention is given to form and too little to content. Marketing and branding should never be just about the form. Developing a brand is hard work and certainly not always easy, it takes determination. What is needed are a number of core actors that are driven and passionate and able to ‘pull the cart’. It is not always necessary to raise new money to develop strictly new things.
58 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The South Downs: Managing a Region That Has Many Stakeholders
Figure 12 – Which way for the South Downs?
From the relative clarity of the New Forest, we now travel to the South Downs, ‘warned’ (but also challenged) by the following words: ‘Compared to the New Forest, the South Downs are “an organizational nightmare”: not only are we dealing with three counties, there are many more districts and there are a lot of already projected policies (among which, of course, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status). If the South Downs were to receive the status of National Park (from the current, temporary status of AONB with a Joint Committee), the resulting situation would be fairly unique and only comparable within England to the Peak District. A very specific challenge for the South Downs is the area’s elongated shape: its ends, situated in different counties, from a cultural standpoint almost constitute a world of difference.’ A very characteristic feature of the South Downs is that it is a varied and extensive area, in which quite a lot of administrative and policy-related activities are going on: a huge projection of policy and a multitude of public and private preservation organizations. The major challenge to the Joint 59 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Committee is to create coherence by means of tangible (landscape-related, natural and organizational) development and promoting and positioning the area as a whole. Ways in have been investigated to make this possible, e.g. through finding forms of cooperation, creating regional awareness and developing and promoting old or new products in new chains (such as the South Downs lamb). ‘Planning the landscape is a very delicate and sensitive process, so you have to be very delicate and sensitive in your approach: it’s about a community in a place.’ Half of the funding for the Joint Committee is achieved by means of monies from the national level; the other half is raised by regional authorities (counties and municipalities). The national and regional authorities are represented proportionally in the Committee’s board. The Committee is a temporary organ intended to coordinate cooperation between the two AONBs that make up the South Downs and to prepare for the transition to another entity: the intended status of National Park. The proposed National Park is larger in surface than the fusion of the two AONBs, as in the interim, adjacent areas have been evaluated and found valuable enough to be included in the proposed National Park. However, here the same difficulties arise: not only is the road towards the new status a long one, much political deliberation is necessary and here the Committee is troubled from within and without by conflicting interests, as parties are afraid to lose authority and control. It is economically not feasible for the Committee to buy lands and so have more control over them, which is one of the reasons with this policy is not pursued: the lands are too expensive and the budget is not nearly sufficient. Moreover, acquiring grounds would be considered nationalisation and this is not done in a region as conservative as the South Downs. The approach the Joint Committee has taken to achieve its aims is to encourage farmers to work in a sustainable fashion and to enter collaborations on a project basis, among others using (European) subsidies and by creating combinations of public and private funds (product and chain development. There are many organizations and forms of policy-making that have an effect on the South Downs as an area. Locally, this spills over into the actual use of a given location, how it is managed and into the search for a balance in that location’s branding. Developing of a management plan together with other partners is important, and the plan should fit into the logic of the greater whole. 60 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
For users and visitors of such a location, this means it should be clear what is and is not allowed and what can and should be expected from one another.
Figure 13 â€“ Within the South Downs, there are specific sites of separate interest. Examples are the SSSIs (Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, mainly in the biological sphere, designated by Natural England) and SAMs (Scheduled Archaeological Monuments, in the archaeological sphere, designated by English Heritage). Such specific sites within the South Downs are managed by separate institutions, which (should) cooperate with the Joint Committee. Cissbury Ring, for example, is managed by the National Trust by itself; Ditchling Beacon is embellished by multiple logos as it is managed by several parties, who cooperate under the Committeeâ€™s lead. There is no overall policy for these specific sites; an ad-locum policy is made (for each site it is determined who will take the lead, including PR). Cooperation is not enforced, but encouraged.
Independent, separate foundations such as the Murray Downland Trust and the Graffham Downland Trust, which are associated to specific parts (large landownership) of the South Downs and which sometimes possess lands themselves, monitor the degree in which flora and fauna are returning. The Joint Committee coordinates the activities of all these trusts.
The South Downs: Many Qualities in a Large Area The South Downs have been continually inhabited since the Ice Age. The area was the perfect combination of farmland (both arable farming and grasslands for cattle) and defence through its safe hill crests. Most probably, the first inhabitants of Britain entered the country through this area. Additionally, in an earlier era, it was connected to France: the landscape is similar and recognisable as such on both sides. The South Downs geologically are made up of porous limestone, which is permeable to water. The upper soil of large parts of the area therefore is poor and thin, which results in trees growing less tall. 61 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The north part of the South Downs consists of heath land, whereas the West Sussex part for fifty percent is made up of estates; the farmers working there are doing so on tenant farms. The current land use in the region may be divided into a number of categories: part is woodlands; part is farmland – both intensive and slightly more extensive, but on a commercial basis – and there are lands that are ‘regained’. Ten to fifteen percent of the current landscape is ‘regained, more natural landscape’. Only three percent of the South Downs consist of the desired species-rich chalk grassland. In general, these are located on the steeper slopes; they are the gems of the region. The Joint Committee aims to increase their volume greatly, to at least twenty percent, in order to encourage biodiversity. At selected locations, trees are felled to make room again for this specific landscape characteristic. The Joint Committee, however, experiences problems in finding enough sheep farmers to get all grasslands grazed. Here and there wooded banks and small plots of land are situated against steep banks, where mechanical agriculture is impossible. These plots remain “rough” and serve as a kind of eco corridor for the transmission of flora and fauna. Commercial stretches of farmland are ecologically dead: not wild flora is able to exist there. There is the hope, though, that as soon as parts of land are taken out of use for farming, the seeds and spores from the ‘corridors’ will stimulate the lands. About twenty percent of the South Downs consists of woodlands. Half of it is ancient woodland, which has been there for over four hundred years and which is rich in biodiversity. Apart from this ancient woodland, there are new plantings and small clumps near farms. A large difference compared to the open areas is that woodlands can absorb many people without having to encounter each other. These woodlands offer many opportunities for leisure and outdoor activities with no risk of damaging the biodiversity of more vulnerable woods. Of old, there was interplay in the South Downs between land use, forestry and wood production, because wood was needed in the production of ‘folds’, mobile and fixed fences to keep sheep together.
62 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 14 â€“ Traditional hedges are an important quality of the region. Preserving knowledge and skills in this area requires effort; within the context of Lifescape, knowledge transfer has taken place. In the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum there are buildings, objects and farmyards from the greater region, which offer an impression of life as it used to be. In itself, museums such as this can be rather static affairs, but here they try to connect with the actual issues of the region by offering courses to professionals.
In the past, estate owners actively participated in landscape shaping, in which woodlands formed an important ingredient (both for production and aesthetically: follies, location markers, avenues; often as status symbols). Historically, there is a long-standing relation between the South Down woodlands and the community. People have been working in forestry for centuries, to support themselves and to make a living. To those who work the woods, be they owners, producers or contractors, it is very important to develop a new awareness, that is, a new mindset, aimed at creating new chains, new modes of marketing and the accompanying communication. There has been a certain change in the way in which administrative and policy-making organs have regarded the woodlands. Until a few years ago, emphasis lay on protection (= leaving alone); nowadays, there is more room for conservation, and so development, provided that this development be favourable to biodiversity. Something which people often do not realise is that certain types of landscape have to be worked, because otherwise they would not remain that type of landscape. Good examples are the heath lands, chalk grasslands and the woodlands themselves as well. Nowadays we are inclined to â€˜freezeâ€™ things, which people in the past actually did not do. Sustainability results in opportunities and obstructions at multiple levels, but starts with the people themselves: buying power and experience. Landscape and identity meet at branding, in which integrity plays an important part. 63 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Not all enterprises have an actual relationship with the landscape they use for their brands. People, however, are looking for experiences and local products can tie into that.
Figure 15 – “The Wood Fair is a marketplace as well as a marketing place. You’ve got everyone there, from those who are promoting their craft and promoting their materials to people who are promoting the cultural aspect, telling stories of the wood; people telling how they make a livelihood, teaching young children about bushcraft, how you make a fire. It’s the whole activity of woodland culture.”
‘Tradition Takes Time’: Stories within the Landscape Within the South Downs, there are many cultural-historical and archaeological characteristics to be found, such as hill forts, burial mounds and remnants of settlements. One of the characteristic features of the landscape is the socalled dew pond, an artificially constructed pit in which a watertight rain water collecting basin is created using straw and (imported) clay. This construction was needed to have watering places available for the sheep at greater altitude, as the soil is porous and unable to contain water. 64 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The ponds vary in age between 20 and 2,000 years; in the twentieth century, when it became possible to construct water pipes, the ponds fell into disuse, but a number of them have been or are being restored. These historical dimensions of the region certainly merit further exposure. Traces of settlement and land use may be found in the landscape and further research is warranted, certainly so in the woodlands. ‘You’re never going to preserve the landscape, because the landscape changes all the time, it has done all the time. You need to understand where it has come from in order to manage the retention of those elements that you’re valuing. And what you’re valuing is a traditional image, because that’s what you’re selling. What you see and what you enjoy is based upon what you know.’ At this moment in time we may be looking at a charming landscape, but behind it there is an entire story of people who (in this case) were forced to abandon their activities. In the course of time, there has been a metamorphosis from a sometimes aggressive and corrupt landscape to one that is rural and idyllic, as it currently is. There are two aspects connected with branding the landscape. There is emerging awareness and interest in these things in general, but knowledge has not necessarily increased. People need to hear the story to what they are seeing: ‘The landscape is a language, but people don’t know the words.’ At the educational level there is the task to help people understand their landscape, so they can enjoy it more. There are several ways of achieving this: information leaflets, travel guides, guided tours, information signs. Education in a broader sense plays an important part as well. ‘You couldn’t sell people the concept of Parliamentary Field System Cottage Cheese, so that people would say, Gee, let’s buy PFSCC!’ Not all historical concepts are equally suitable. The second point is that the people are familiar with the landscape, even though they may not understand it well or truly recognise it. The landscape may be represented in certain, recognisable characteristics (iconic value) without the need to explain them. It is not necessary to know the landscape into detail to be able to recognise it. The connection that is sought with historic landscape features tends towards looking for tradition and things that have been around for a long time (Cathedral Cheese includes an old-fashioned shepherd in its logo). It is an associative image whose components not necessarily have to be named (and do not even have to belong together historically). 65 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Authenticity is an ambiguous concept in this field. It is the power of the image. There is an argument both for a need and no need to add actual historical knowledge to this image for visitors to the area. If we are dealing just with marketing, it is not necessarily needed. Understanding is needed in that sense for the preservation of the story, otherwise knowledge and so tradition will be lost and eventually the strength of the brand… ‘A brand is the story a region tells about itself.’
Figure 16 – A product that has been developed within this philosophy is the South Downs lamb, which is eminently suited to the grazing policy. Market research has shown that exploiting the lamb could be profitable. A company has been established (in 2004) under Joint Committee auspices to market the product. Local farmers have been approached to breed the lamb; currently there are 15 farmers involved, who together produce around 11,000 lambs per year. Some 20 butchers are involved in the South Downs lamb.
The brand should be based on sustainability, a stable economic basis and ‘preservation through development’. As regards regional products, the South Downs could nearly be self-sufficient. Not only is there the lamb, there are also some 40 South Downs cheeses that are marketed as such. However, at present only the lamb is part of the Joint Committee brand; the other products are made by independent producers. The Committee is thinking of bringing more products under the brand umbrella, and this may develop further if consensus can be reached on the direction. 66 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The Committee considers it very important to encourage chain development at a local level, so cooperation between enterprises may arise, if necessary with start-up and incentive money, which not only boosts the local area but may also, as a spinoff, mean a boost to the region as a whole (regional development). The South Downs landscape is a landscape that makes you feel welcome in many ways, but it is also a landscape that has to be conquered. The region’s core qualities can certainly be embodied in a story, but it is not always evident how one can or should do so. What makes the region special is that there are many different atmospheres and landscape types at one’s elbow: from the sea and its cliffs, visitors may go to magnificent hill ranges with hiking paths and views, and from there to rolling landscapes and heath lands. There are many villages that have hiking routes and good facilities. Combining all of these elements and qualities under one ‘South Downs’ umbrella takes time. An important next step is destination marketing. Chains should be developed between visitors, the local population and provides. In the case of the South Downs, this could for instance mean that investments should be made in a fine-meshed public transport network, to enable all sections of the population to experience the region to the full.
Opportunities and Challenges from this (Sub)Case
Public-private constructions are absolutely essential to the region’s development and its (wood) products. One issue is that for the public part of the innovations and investments, there is anxiety, because there are political interests on the one hand, and a kind of ‘fear of the tax payer’ on the other (conservative area; what are the interests?) Parties are hesitant to invest in new markets. The agri-environmental programs as they are developed in this case, are however a start in practising public-private collaboration. To further support in this field, it is important to create PPCs in areas where a clear added value emerges that is visible to both the public and the political layers. Sustainable development for a large part is about awareness. Of course, existing practices can go on for awhile and existing enterprises might well survive for some time. What is desired, however, is adding value at the regional level and additionally playing along with current social discussions and needs, such as the CO2 debate.
67 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Developing new markets and new directions is often interwoven with very personal things, traditions or ways of working. In marketing and developing new lines, chains and products, it is very important to experience a kind of turning point. People are often stuck in existing practice and it is necessary to establish a certain distance to be able to develop new things. It is of vital importance that the local community be involved in the South Downs as a region. The Joint Committee does not perform its duties just for its own sake, but for the South Downs as a whole. Identity is about feeling connected, and connection is part of a story. Regional identity in the South Downs is all about many stories that fit in with many identities. Looking for an overall connection should not stand in the way of the fact that there is much power in all kinds of subregions and sub-initiatives that may have meaning for the greater whole.
68 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The High Weald: Characterising a Historical, Dynamic Area
Figure 17 â€“ View across the High Weald.
The High Weald was designated an AONB in 1983, which means that it received a protected status â€“ but not necessarily a working organization of its own. Unlike the South Downs, there is no policy to develop the region into a National Park. An AONB such as the High Weald has an advantage in the fact that it combines organizational forces from the region in the shape of a Joint Advisory Committee. The working organization of the High Weald was only established in 1989, consisting of just one officer. Currently, there is a core team of six people within a larger organization of 16 persons. The AONB does not employ its own rangers like the South Downs. Instead, they have chosen to position themselves as a strategic organization. What makes the approach of the AONB unit special within the United Kingdom is that they do not wish to develop and preserve according to the image of the landscape during the past century, based on what people find important now, which happens in many other regions. Rather, they have chosen for an analysis of historical patterns in the region and to incorporate these into new developments and policy-making (from the philosophy that the High Weald 69 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
would not be the High Weald without this historical reality). The above has been laid down in a controversial policy; its controversy stems from aspects such as the current spatial planning policy, which prescribes that extending built-up area should take place at the edges of the villages themselves, whereas the historical approach shows that it is very much possible to encourage scattered settlements. What has emerged is that when AONB staff incorporates these views into official documents, administrators take them out again. It is clear that this is a vision and an awareness that needs time to grow. Historically, the High Weald consists mainly of woodlands with scattered open areas, into which the farmers in the Downs led their cattle to graze and eat the acorns (droving or transhumance). This resulted in a small-scale landscape with many wooded banks and few hedges: the fields were mostly created by clearing bits of woodland or enlarging existing open spaces, and as a consequence are relatively small and scattered (field pattern). The ground is not easily cultivated (hard clay and sandstone), which made it economically unprofitable to ‘hew’ more fields out of the woods. Over time, the farmers’ temporary settlements developed into permanent ones (which traditionally ended in ‘-den’, such as Biddenden). A related consequence of transhumance was that most traffic routes in the High Weald run in a north-south direction. The High Weald and the South Downs both enjoy protected statuses, but in the in-between area, large-scale housing construction plans have been developed, which means that adjacent to or even in the High Weald houses will be built; this seems inevitable in the future. In a similar way, the larger towns in the area are contemplating or constructing bypasses that will have to be realised in the green space, and for which political lobbies exists. There are two larger towns in the region (Tunbridge Wells and Crawborough), but they are not designated themselves and so form ‘holes’ in the AONB. How the boundaries of the AONB area were defined is an interesting case: probably it was done by means of such geographical features as streams and altitude, but also taking political constructs into considerations and ‘a lot of instinctive guesswork was involved as well’. Some ten years ago, the High Weald as a region was fairly unknown. It existed, of course and had been an AONB for years, but not much time was spent on presenting an image. It was not a region people automatically had an image of, unlike the South Downs or the Cotswolds; it was not a cultural image of its own accord. Partly this is because for a protected landscape, it covers a large area and is spread over multiple counties as well. One of the observations that were made back then is that any brand that would be 70 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
developed for the High Weald would have a long way to go to become a known quantity. One of the main things you want for your brand is that it is recognised and understood by the target group it is aimed at. The AONB realised that there was a step preceding a brand; namely, raising the High Weald’s profile as a region, before it would become possible at all to add economical value to whatever product.
Figure 18 – Ashdown Forest is the only part of the High Weald with a clear identity of its own. It is an old hunting forest and the best-preserved of its kind. Ashdown Forest enjoys special statuses within the AONB (SSSI, SAC). One of the things you cannot ignore is the fact that people, if they are familiar with Ashdown Forest, have a strong association with Winnie the Pooh. In the past, however, local administrators have agreed not to brand Pooh in the area, for fear of large numbers of visitors and the ensuing inconvenience. The result is however, that currently there is too little dedicated to the subject in the area, which is not realistic either and which could well disappoint visitors. Local entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have a clear desire to raise the area’s profile to attract Pooh-related visitors. ‘Pooh Bridge is a honey pot in the High Weald.’ There is no copyright on the concept of Pooh Country as such; it might be interesting to involve the Milne estate (and that of the illustrator) for an honourable kind of marketing.
71 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
High Weald between Past and Present: Historical Layers The landscape of Southeast England, certainly the landscape in a region such as the High Weald, runs the risk of succumbing to its protected status. Because little development is possible and because of its demographics, a landscape evolves that no longer lives. Lopsided local communities arise in which younger people and employees can hardly find affordable housing and in which entrepreneurs get little space to develop when they do not fit in with certain rural programs. This makes the landscape monotonous and, in a certain sense, ‘dead’. Landscape, economy and people diverge, which cannot be a sustainable perspective. One question that really needs to be answered by all parties concerned is what they want the landscape to do. In this area, the landscape is in danger of being and remaining merely a piece of scenery. ‘There are ways of developing that help you to protect and enhance; we’re losing the living landscape.’ This view, however, remains controversial and the AONB still has to compile arguments and examples to substantiate and strengthen their approach. Branding can be a means to this end, but is no saving force on its own or by definition the road towards sustainable development, it is felt. For local entrepreneurs it may be important to secure their continued existence in that area. Additionally, better understanding of the region is needed and a clear insight into the development of the whole. The story is important, not the mechanics. The AONB wants to investigate the role that the protected landscapes can and have to play in the greater issue of the countryside. We are dealing with combined issues concerning food quality, energy, land use and quality of life. It is very useful to look at historical developments in the landscape and note how they have changed through time, and how people have had and taken room for new developments. One aspect the AONB rates highly, for example, is the cooperation with the County Archaeologist to provide the story of the area with the necessary depth. They feel that if they continue down the present road, the protected areas will become peculiar islands among other areas that are left to their own devices, or that have to absorb far too many developments.
72 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
‘If you define the conservation enhancement objective in a different way, you can create positive development that is guided and focused.’ The High Weald AONB together with the County Archaeologist promotes Historic Landscape Characterisation Studies, which show why certain patterns in the landscape are the way they are. These studies are nearing completion for Sussex. On the national level, this can mean a regional, local and sometimes very location-specific insight into the layers and dimensions of the present landscape. This information, which will become available on-line, shows into great detail what are the combined characteristics of a location, regarding history, geology and land use. It is a very important tool to create awareness, but also in execution of plans and changes. The historical dimension contributed by this source of knowledge may be able to break through the compartmentalisation of the disciplines. The language and images provided are recognisable to everyone and as such, the system shows a kind of biography of the location. It can also be used as a force to get parties moving again in discussions that have bogged down on how the landscape could, should or should not be arranged. The problem with many spatial planning debates is that they immediately grind into a halt at very concrete positions, such as whether or not to add another residential area, or alternatively that they refer to too many abstract concepts, such as climate neutral building or water storage. The landscape has always been changing and should continue to do so; concepts should be developed that encourage new forms of habitation and activities. Developing meaningful relations that are geared to sustainability is very essential to the future of the High Weald. This can be in the shape of chains that enable producers and consumers to find each other, but another possibility lies in virtual networks, in which people may live in the region without having to work somewhere else, and so put less strain on infrastructure.
‘Putting It on the Map’: Dimensions and (Im)Possibilities of Branding Over the course of the years, the High Weald AONB unit has more or less abandoned the concept of branding as such. At first they were in fact enthusiastic about the concept, because it promised added value, it holds that promise. The assumption is that marketing products simply contributes to the quality of the environment, the thought being that by creating product in your area and selling it, you create a relationship with the surroundings and the 73 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
landscape. In the High Weald, they started to wonder what that added value would be exactly and how it would come about. Research showed that it was in fact rather difficult to actually show the benefits. External consultants have been commissioned to investigate how people look at regions in the southeast of England (South Downs, High Weald, Surrey Hills, Kent Downs). In 2001 their final report was issued, and the main conclusion, at least for the High Weald, was that developing a brand of their own would take a long time, cost a substantial amount of money (hundreds of thousands of pounds) and require an enormous organizational effort. On the other hand, the report also showed what approaches would be possible, especially in the short term. From that point on, the AONB unit has abandoned branding their mark as such and chosen a different approach. An additional issue was how to guarantee for a brand â€“ if you were at all to develop it â€“ that people and companies that use the brand actually positively enhance the landscape. It could well be that people only want to use the brand for their own economical benefit (naturally, perhaps, for why else would they start using it in the first place?), but that a positive contribution to the surroundings is not guaranteed at all. In England, there were really no accreditation models for this kind of environment improvement. What comes closest is the Leaf Scheme; at least outwardly it looked nice, but it was hard to manage. Moreover, it could not be verified if a supplying company was operating entirely environmentally aware.
74 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 19 – Action in Rural Sussex is a charity and as such in an intermediate position between the public and private sectors, more or less like an NGO. Sources of income are, for example, the National Lottery, Leader+, the Department for Farming, Food and Rural Affairs and the local government. AirS’ central focus is community development; their approach is practical and aimed at the local level. The organisation’s main purpose is advancing know-how, especially for those with smaller budgets, to make use of products and ways of working that represent rural Sussex. This way, people can obtain healthy food within local chains. Regional products that are currently developed for the market are, however, relatively expensive.
‘If your objective is to help people add value to their produce, then a brand is one way of doing it. But our objective is positive enhancement, not just neutral, keeping the landscape, but positively enhancing the landscape. In our view, branding anything with the High Weald therefore failed: people didn’t know the brand, we couldn’t guarantee positive enhancement because we had no accreditation scheme.’ The only example of branding using a High Weald brand so far is a furniture workshop that started out at the beginning of the 90s as a pilot project, then became a public-private cooperation and eventually, in 1998, an independent commercial enterprise. They had enough in-house know-how to safeguard their ecological credentials and develop independently. They use the story of the region to sell their products. All of this raises the question when we are dealing with branding: when is it product marketing and when is it regional branding? The aspect the High Weald currently is focusing on is exploring the story of the region and making it relatable, combining a number of concrete storylines that may be of use to parties within the region: feeding entrepreneurs with input for a story they can then develop themselves, linked to their product, incorporating the landscape and the region.
75 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Opportunities and Challenges from This (Sub)Case
The High Weald AONB prefers not to stress any specific identity, but rather to increase awareness among the public for the landscape in which they live. It wishes to enhance knowledge and increase involvement, so people are encouraged to think positively of their surroundings and make their activities more sustainable. Historical awareness is very important to make people feel involved with the place they live in, and furthermore it is very important to have a wider perspective for spatial planning debates. People have a memory for traditions and images that stretches back for about a century, sometimes even less. This can be a problem in creating policy, and so one has to look carefully how to balance matters. Having a human figurehead may be of vital importance. Using social networks and contacts, a future heir of an estate in the High Weald has been approached to become a kind of ambassador and member of the committee. She has proposed, as she has done with her own policies, to stage a public poll on the area’s interpretation and destination as a whole. A demand for the logic and dimensions of branding has emerged: when are we dealing with product marketing and when with regional characterisation? It should be about feeding input to stakeholders for a story they can adopt and continue to develop, linked to their product. This way, the landscape and the region are incorporated. Regional products as they are currently developed and marketed are relatively expensive and often only serve the upper sections of the market. This is a problem inasmuch as it clashes with the principle of sustainable development. Marketing regional products results in exposure, but also supply to relatively expensive stores, which means that especially those with smaller budgets have restricted access to local and healthy products. In this light, branding is a controversial topic, because it wants to represent, promote and transmit a rural lifestyle, but exactly the local people cannot always benefit from it. This is the branding paradox.
76 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Le Marais Audomarois: Modern Times in a Historical Region
Figure 20 – Cauliflower plots in the communal part of the Marais.
The Marais Audomarois (Saint-Omer Marsh), which lies in the north of France, is a complex area as regards ownership and management. Some parts are the responsibility of the Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale (colloquially ‘the Park’, hereafter ‘PNR’), other parts of the département and yet others are private property. This results in policy that may vary from one part to the other and a landscape that may look different in different locations. Interests vary as well and this sometimes leads to policy clashes. The PNR takes as much as possible an overall approach to the area, since its agenda includes sustainable development in several areas. Other owners often have a more one-sided approach, but the PNR tries to take ‘responsibility’ for the whole and enters into discussions with other owners, among others regarding collective maintenance. At first glance, after an initial sounding, one is excused for having the impression that the various interested parties have dug in deeply, in a triangle of interests that could almost literally be shown on a ordnance survey map of the area: the PNR at Arques in the southeast, the city of Saint-Omer in the 77 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
south and the Cooperative and its farmers, who battle for each plot of land, in the west. Still, bridges are being built to reach the other parties, or at least attempts in that direction are made. Many of the langres or plots are losing their original market gardening function because their owners (have to) cease their gardening activities, and it depends on the situation what happens with the vacant parcels. Some of them are sold on to young market gardeners, others are left abandoned and turn into bush lands, yet others are bought up and used by their new owners (or in some cases, the old owners) just for hunting purposes.
Table 1 – Overview of the number of cultivated plots, the number of marsh farming families and the average area surface from the nineteenth century to the present day. Source: Barbier (2002:21), manually updated for 2007 by its author.
Regarding the area’s future an important question is what could be the driving force for conservation or development. On the one hand, one can establish that farmers ever more often cease practising traditional market gardening as it is, for all sorts of reasons, no longer possible or profitable, that it could only be encouraged by means of subsidies and that it would become a kind of protected area or museum. In that case, development in the area would come to a standstill and all naturalness would disappear. On the other hand, if current trends would continue, the area would turn into an uncontrollable kind of leisure park with country houses, water sports and similar unchecked developments that – most probably – will not sustainably enhance the area. At some stage, consensus will have to be reached on what constitutes an interesting future for the area, and to whom. 78 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The Marais Audomarois is an area (within the larger region of Audomarois) of which the most conspicuous aspect will have to be its economical issues. The soil may be rich and fertile for market gardening, but it is accessed only with difficulty. The monks of Saint-Momelin and Saint-Omer were the first to reclaim the erstwhile marshlands, working after the Dutch model (digging ditches, draining the area) from the start of the fifteenth century. Its economical issues are mainly caused by problems posed to intensive agriculture: mechanisation is hardly possible because of all the ditches and canals, which also reduce accessibility to the plots. Those that still practice agriculture in the Marais are passionate about their profession and their landscape. They have started a cooperative that mainly sells cauliflowers, the cultivation of which is significant, both in the amount cultivated in the Marais and in terms of percentage nationwide. A decreasing number of market gardeners are currently active in the Marais. The largest farmers can still make a good living off their production; the smaller ones are having slightly more difficulty, but all depends on how the market gardeners adapt to the market situation. All plots of land on the perimeter of the Marais are easily worked by mechanical means, for they can be reached from the ‘mainland’. It is the inner plots that pose the ‘problem’. In earlier times, they could be reached by means of boats and the crop would be transported over water, but that is now not longer an (economically feasible) option. During the last few decades, roads, paths and bridges have been constructed to make parts of the Marais more readily accessible. Furthermore, larger boats have been constructed: for the farmers, to transport their equipment; but also for tourism. There are interesting social and cultural-historical locations along the canals, which are currently not or barely used or developed. An example is an old windmill, which has fallen into disrepair but which would be perfectly suited to educational and recreational purposes that harmonise with the landscape and the agenda for development. Moulding and refining this into a program would need coalitions between owners and managing organizations. At another location, there is a disused riverside café, where until recently fishermen, hunters, area managers and others met at the end of the day to discuss the day’s activities. (Unfortunately, the managing couple divorced but refused to sell on to a new landlord.) This café was a prime meeting point for both social networking and transferring knowledge on the area. To be able to (re)develop this will need intensive collaboration, and the most important question is who can be the driving force. The following is a good example: a large part of the Marais, an oval island at the centre of the region, is owned by one person (a high-ranking manager of a large French company). It is unclear what his 79 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
intentions are for his area, but it is, beside the multitude of smaller owners, a clear indication of the (vulnerable) position in the field of ownership, management and the future of the area.
Figure 21 â€“ The traditional modes of transport used by the market gardeners to transport their crops and cattle in the area before the advent of roads were the bacove and escute punts. These boats are now no longer used by the market gardeners. The PNR is the only party that still uses these types of boat for working purposes. There is still one craftsman capable of repairing the boats; he has ceased commercial activity but still repairs boats when needed, despite his advanced age. A very possible development would be that (new) inhabitants and holiday-makers were to use this type of traditional boat, which would be very interesting from a cultural-historical point of view.
Caught between Scylla and Charybdis: Conflicting Interests of Users Landownership in the Marais is a fragmented affair. On the one hand the commune of Saint-Omer owns half of the Marais Communal (Communal Marshes) and leases it out; on the other hand there are many small plots (about 4,000), which results in major archive research in the land register to find out who owns what to be able to talk with owners about maintenance and access. The year 2001 saw the foundation of a so-called Marais Workgroup, instigated and led by the PNR, in which (aside from the PNR) both the communities/ communes and the Urban Area of Saint-Omer participate. Because of this, the Workgroup has got members that are elected from the communities, who are completed by PNR experts and a number of other organizations (when needed for particular issues). The cooperation agreement states four main goals and, for each main goal, four actions. For each goal and action, everybody who is involved in the area is expressly invited to help it become reality. 80 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The main goals are:
Maintaining the area and keeping it active Realising good access to the area Conserving market gardening activities for the area Protecting and (re)developing cultural heritage
The main question is for the Workgroup as well, how to get a grip on the area and its future destination. Buying plots of land could possibly be an option, but this takes time and money, both of which are not available. Another possibility that has been investigated is to have the Conservatoire du Littoral government body buy up plots with their right of priority and either add the plots to the natural area or lease them to market gardeners for an annual fee or even for free (under certain conditions, such as the number of cattle per plot, the use of pesticides and maintenance of banks. But a natural consequence of this is that especially the larger land owners baulk at this form of expropriation and re-awarding. The Conservatoire has, by the way, the least difficulty with buying the inner plots, as these are economically less interesting. One of the motivating forces to want to buy the plots at all is the occurrence of such phenomena as camping wild, endless holiday homes and, strangely enough, poplar control. Once, many people planted poplars on their plots to avoid having to pay taxes (resulting from governmental tree-planting encouragement policies), but they subsequently refrained from felling them. This leads to unwanted situations: the trees themselves are exotic to the location to begin with, they ‘spoil’ the landscape’s appearance, and the plots eventually turn into woodland. The Conservatoire experiences competition from ‘outside people’ (from Paris, Lille), who buy plots for leisure occupation, an example being the manager mentioned before, who bought up the entire Marais Dambricourt. The competition consists mainly of the fact that these private persons can offer much better prices for the plots than the Conservatoire. The communes, however, determine who gets the plots: they have the deciding power. In the absence of cooperation programs, however, they each make their own choices. A further point to take into consideration is the fact that the Syndicat mixte (water board/conservancy) has the power to declare plots of land within the Marais territoire de risque naturel (natural risk area). The Syndicat, among other things, manages the Marais’ water level and other water management matters. Plots that have been marked as being Natural Risk Areas may not be used for building, because they must be available for flooding in times of high water. The importance of open land as such is evident. 81 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Fifty percent of the Marais Communal is still owned by the commune of SaintOmer, who leases the plots to farmers. In earlier times, the rental income went to ecclesiastical bodies; nowadays, it flows into the city’s coffers. Vacant plots are awarded for rental by lot for a period of nine years, which is then extended automatically for as long as the market gardening farm exists, even across generations. The plots are not reallocated until a market gardener stops farming, with priority for young, starting farmers who have little or no land. In former days, the communal parcels were leased to the farmer that offered the highest rent; this system endured into the 60s, when there were large reforms in the Marais. The land consolidation executed in the Marais (especially the Marais Communal) was the most expensive ever in France: under Giscard d’Estaing, one billion French francs were spent on it. The land consolidation was a collaborative project of the Saint-Omer commune and the Syndicat des Maraîchers (about which more below). The Workgroup feels that ‘bio sectors’ may be a litmus test for the future, being transitional zones between areas dedicated to cultivation and nature. They may possibly save the Marais for market gardening and create a new dynamic.
Room for an Own Brand ‘Le Marais Audomarois’? Creating a brand is an interesting issue and beneficial to the area, but should be done according to ‘strict rules’, the general feeling seems to be. At present, there is no umbrella brand in the Marais Audomarois, and according to many it would take time to develop and even more to maintain it. The driving force behind such an initiative could be the Syndicat des Maraîchers or the Cooperative, although this would raise the additional questions what kind of brand it would be and from which interest. A brand could indeed help area development at several levels, the feeling is; it is a track that requires development, but which offers potential. A brand could draw tourists to the area, e.g. through the yet-to-be-constructed Maison du Marais (House of the Marshes). But awareness is required, both among the market gardeners and the local population. According to those involved, the population of the Marais and the adjacent Saint-Omer suburbs (faubourgs) is rather closed, they do not easily get along with outsiders. This could explain why the market gardeners/ farmers are so set against cooperating with outside parties. At the moment, there is no direct access from the city of Saint-Omer to the Marais’ canal system. There are boat rental companies active at multiple locations, and yet the transition 82 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
between city and countryside is not evident here, and a river front could be developed to open up the area. An important issue we come across at this point is that many of the current farmers are not interested in tourism at all. They do not (yet) seem to understand the necessity, the opportunities and the added value of it. In this respect, a change is to be made to be able to realise the forming of chains and use the area’s qualities in a symbiotic manner. The parties that offer the most opposition are the so-called ‘newcomers’, ‘imported’ people who have bought sections of the Marais specifically for their own relaxation and wish to cordon off the entire area to others. As is also seen in other areas in Europe, these are the people who want to arrest the area’s development, all the while – paradoxically – being themselves a sign of change. Additional specifics issues for the Marais at this point in time are camping wild in caravans and camper vans; motorboats that damage canal banks with their screws and the resulting scend; side channels that grow thick with bushes or are being dammed up. The Syndicat des Maraîchers (SdM) has a history that predates the Second World War and was formed by members of small cooperatives. As early as 1950, the members walked in demonstration through the city of Saint-Omer to draw the citizens’ attention to market gardening in the Marais and its problems, especially the (too) low price level. The SdM was primarily established to encourage cooperation between farmers and to protect them. In the early days, the Syndicat had some three hundred members who formed a tight alliance, partly from their closed community of small farmers who lived close together and shared a common culture. One of the main activities of the SdM in those early years was to obtain subsidies to purchase small farming machines for individual use. Within the SdM, there are so-called GAECs, small cooperatives of at most three farmers, who purchase specific equipment for collective use. There are also some ten GAECs who have purchased equipment to keep the canals clean and repair the banks; these GAECs operate as a kind of contracting firm for the other market gardeners/farmers. An important activity of the SdM nowadays is combating muskrats, which pose a serious threat to banks and crops alike. This pest control is performed using traps, but the Syndicat contemplates switching to mainly chemical pest control (using poison), because of the labour-intensive nature of laying and emptying traps. The muskrats have to go, otherwise the Marais is doomed, is the general feeling. 83 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 22 – The interrelation between the SdM and the Cooperative is that many farmers are members of both organisations. There are only a couple of farmers who are member of the SdM but not of the Cooperative. The Cooperative, which was established in 1973 (around the same time as the land consolidation and other modernising efforts took place), has as main goal to package and sell its members’ products. Forty farmers out of a total of around 70 are member of the Cooperative.
A specific brand (label) for the entire Marais Audomarois can be very interesting, is the general consensus. There are already, however, many other labels, such as for cauliflower and chicory. Furthermore, the Cooperative anticipates issues in the cooperation with Phalempin (a large buyer of cauliflower, one of the region’s core products) if the Saint-Omer products were suddenly to be marketed separately under their ‘own’ brand. This would be unwise from an economical point of view. Cauliflower should be kept outside of any possible brand; other products are in principle ready to go under a brand umbrella, which includes packaging, for which already a number of initiatives have been undertaken (informal label ‘Saint-Omer’). On the other hand, the parties concerned are of the opinion that promotion and branding would mean solid additional selling stimuli, for other crops as well, such as celery. Apart from cauliflower and chicory, crops grown in the Marais are cultivated almost entirely for the local/regional market and so perhaps less interesting for branding purposes. Another party that might be a driving force for establishing an area-wide brand is the aforementioned Marais Workgroup. The Workgroup could incorporate this into its strategy and communicate this as one of its interests to its members and the other parties involved in the area.
84 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 23 – The shop at Saint-Omer with its local products. The shop is run by four producers and the Workgroup; they have found each other through their networks and personal contacts. There are few patrons apart from local people, but this can be an area for development. No specific story is told as such about the area to go along with the products, because most of the people visiting the store are local and know the region anyway. The main question is who could be the leading party for a store such as this: the proprietors concede with some embarrassment that they could not have succeeded without the PNR’s help.
The Story of the Marais: between Tradition and Progress… Old traditions might well prove valuable in raising the area’s profile, but little is known about them nowadays. A number of older farmers and market gardeners have colourful tales to tell, but very little has been recorded. Apart from that, it would take many volunteers and partner organizations to get things organised (money is less of a problem), which is hard to achieve nowadays. Moreover, possible organizing parties are deterred by the multitude of organizational challenges (including permits and safety concerns). The cortège nautique is the best-known tradition of the area; it is being held each year and is a true crowd puller. This custom can be a symbol to both the city and the Marais. A regional custom such as the cortège is, however, of limited use for touristic purposes and the promotion of trade, the economic parties claim. In earlier days, when the custom had just been established, it led to an enormous boost in cauliflower sales (which were carried along in the procession). In fact, this was the main purpose of the event, which was established shortly after World War Two to help boost the sales of the poor farmers. Back in those days, the cortège was more varied in the crops it carried along, because more kinds of crops were cultivated in the Marais.
85 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
However, the cortège nowadays still offers a nice viewing experience (a giant is carried along on the boats, representing the market gardening branch and the Marais itself) and is a tourist attraction.
Figure 24 – The cortège nautique at Saint-Omer.
Other old customs, such as playing joute, a game in which farmers try to push their opponent off their boat and into the water using their punting beams, have fallen into disuse because of modern industry polluting the waters of river Aa. Customs such as these would be hard to re-establish without imposing new restrictions on industry. There are other rituals that could be used, such as the procession of the Vièrge du Marais (Our Lady of the Marshes), which was held around Tilques on August 15 each year (at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin feast day). This ritual involved paving the road with reeds and throwing rose petals, while the priest would hold mass at certain points along the route. These kinds of initiatives were held by and for the small Marais communities and are perhaps less suited to large-scale tourism.
86 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Several parties are involved in gathering and spreading knowledge of the area and unlocking the area for tourism, which do not necessarily cooperate optimally. There are some old sores surrounding a number of incidents in tuning activities, but the main issue is the lack of integral discussion to align all possibilities and have a look at how issues and obstacles can be solved together. The various organizations are, however, working with enthusiasm on the dissemination of information and organizing visiting opportunities in the area. The Antiquaires de la Morinie organization’s library is in the Saint-Omer inner city; it is open to study. The city’s Service Animation du Patrimoine (Heritage Animation Service) department provides information to visitors by means of information plaques with (historical) anecdotes on certain locations within the city. The ‘Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire’ (Cultural-Historical Towns and Regions) brand is a nationwide brand to create awareness among the target audience, both local and external, for local heritage. To this end, guides are employed. With regard to the Marais, most emphasis is laid on the canal front of the city: information on the city and the Marais is written on similar information plaques to the ones mentioned above, near the railway station, to function as a kind of bridge between the city and the Marais. For the moment, the initiative still is primarily city-oriented. Audo’Nat is based in Saint-Omer and their main objective is to educate the Saint-Omer youth in the range of 2-12 years on the region. They organise and participate in activities such as a walk through nature reserve Romelaëre (part of the Marais), during which there are stories and activities about market gardeners, peat cutters, flora and fauna. The Guides Nature de l’Audomarois (GNA) mainly organise walks in the Saint-Omer region as a whole (including the areas outside of the Marais), as well as in other PNR areas. Audo’Nat and GNA are aware of each other’s existence and refer to each other where needed, but to their opinion serve different target groups. GNA receives many tourists who are visiting from other regions in France, but foreigners as well. Means to reach GNA are their internet presence and Saint-Omer’s Tourist Office. Audo’Nat works from an entirely different angle: citizens cannot apply individually; rather, (educational) organizations are referred to them from their professional contacts network of foundations and associations. Their target group is mainly based in the local area. The people working for Audo’Nat and some of the GNA staff, by the way, originally worked for the PNR. The tourist organizations in the region are of the opinion that on the one hand, there is only limited awareness in the area itself of the qualities and possibilities; and that on the other hand, market gardeners/farmers are 87 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
sometimes dead against the rise of tourism and associated activities. Audo’Nat, for instance, got the distinct impression that a certain farmer, who was not in favour of tourist activities, planted high-growing vegetation to block the view. Attempts have been made to hold awareness meetings for the farmers, but they were met with little enthusiasm. There is no coordination between the tourist organizations to come to a common story.
Tourism is in full development in the Marais and it can certainly mean a new dynamic for the area. According to the various organizations, the PNR is the pre-eminent party to be the driving force and leading party in this development. The PNR is impartial, apolitical, has the right goal in mind and is able to open doors. To the PNR itself, however, this does not seem to be entirely without problem.
Challenges and Opportunities from This Case
The presence of a large, coordinating organization in a region, such as the PNR, is at the same time a major advantage and a potentially hampering disadvantage. When you are considered by the stakeholders in the area to be a leading party for everything, then this in practice may quickly be misconstrued. Furthermore, it will not always be clear to stakeholders what interests are taken into account and who is being represented. On the other hand, the PNR is the pre-eminent platform for development. Perhaps it is only possible for a region such as the Audomarois to rise above interests when there is an organization that stands ‘above’ all parties. In practice, this is of course nearly impossible to the PNR, because there will always be a management plan, and besides resources are too limited to make good on everything.
88 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
It is very difficult to bring together seemingly irreconcilable interests in an open discussion on development. Often it emerges in conversation that several stakeholders are talking about the same interest, but in another guise. In the Audomarois, farmers are of the opinion that they are obstructed by the nature lobby, the tourists and the city, when interesting alliances could be made with these parties as well. The issue of ‘city-countryside transitions’ manifests itself clearly in Saint-Omer. Of old, there has been a logical connection between the farming area and the city, for supplies, transport and facilities. The balance, however, is shifting. Where the countryside once worked for the city, now the city lays a claim that is increasing in impact and frequency: for leisure and recreation. What is more, the modern audience is interested in an entirely different and new way in ‘living on the land’. The challenge lies with the entrepreneurs to raise their profile and be open for innovation. The citizens, on the other hand, need to have respect for the countryside. Developing a brand specifically for the Marais Audomarois is not selfevident. Although everybody in principle agrees it is a nice concept and although there are some tentative initiatives in this area, people admit that on the one hand there is interference from existing labels (controlled by powerful stakeholders in the market gardening sector and by the PNR) and on the other hand that they would not be sure how to ‘charge’ such a mark. Initiatives to this end should be more robust than they are now, if a decision to go for it were to be made at all.
Identity and Branding: a Delicate, Pragmatic and Creative Process Branding, as an aspect of regional development, seems increasingly to become a goal in itself. Not only does this mean that only the end of a possible regional development process is focused upon, but also this only stresses the marketing aspect of regional development, and perhaps overvalues it. This may result in region-related development processes getting bogged down, because they are not based in content. Regions increasingly seem to feel that it suffices to establish a committee that writes ‘the story’ and attach a logo to it. The question is, however, how sustainable is branding like that? The process of regional development will have to be more robust than mere superficial window-dressing. 89 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
An additional understanding simply is that not all regions have the same amount of distinguishing qualities to build on. Of course it is possible to adopt a given product or approach and graft it onto the region, as it were, but the required marketing effort will only have to be more intensive to obtain a successful chain that can sustainably provide the area with a carrier. An uncomfortable realisation is, however, that we cannot brand the entire landscape into submission; if something is to remain exceptional, it will have to be something that cannot and should not be copied by all neighbouring parties. In relation to regional identity, this leads to the question to what degree branding is able to build on the qualities of the living environment as perceived by actors. We have to reflect on both stories and storylines. The very interesting added value of the ‘cultural biography’ as worked out by Rooijakkers (1999) is that the concept offers room for a combined historical and landscape-related view and as such is a kind of platform to interpret one’s own surroundings. Regarding the cultural biography of a region, Rooijakkers states that it is about ‘a biographical umbrella construction, a regional epic, in which there is room for many points of view and perspectives, so justice can be done to the many strata of identity.’ Those regions that are currently searching for the ‘logic of matters’ in their quest for individuality and distinction, may find new insights and energy by means of an awareness for their cultural biography and their role as podium for interplay of actors. To support this, I would like to present the most important aspects from the international research as presented in this chapter, in the shape of a list of ten recommendations: 1. Grafting a new area (such as a National Park) onto an older culturalhistorical region requires dedication; the process is not self-evident. 2. Do look at what ‘the neighbours’ are doing: what is happening in a broader framework within a greater region? Regions should preferably establish a program among themselves. 3. An important aspect of sustainable area development, besides ‘people, planet and profit’ is, in addition to the first concept, passion. Passion for the region. 4. Sympathetic cooperation is of fundamental interest to a regional development process: open yet not smothering.
90 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
5. There is always a need for driving forces, leading parties, in the form of process drivers, ambassadors or figureheads (the latter often holds a basic position). 6. Attention to (historical) strata and the biography of the region can offer insight into already present core qualities. 7. Branding should be weighed in the greater process: a brand is not the same as an intelligent chain for marketing. 8. Sometimes it is not so much about marketing (are there products?), raising profile in attractiveness/vitalising the region may well be sufficient. 9. It is not always necessary to provide new money to develop new things: move from story towards storylines: the story of a region. 10. Use old and new traditions: do not be afraid for symbols and rituals. Link them to economic perspectives as carriers.
91 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
5. From Culture to Branding? ‘Regional identity’ in Action
The Demand for Sustainable Vital Coalitions in a Metropolitan Landscape The Dilemma of Acting Actors versus Regulating Authorities The study performed here concerns itself firstly with the possible emergence of so-called ‘vital’ coalitions of actors, who should be able to create a sustainable perspective with their power and prowess (Horlings et al. 2006). The second starting point here is that the so-called metropolitan landscape, or mixed urban and rural network, is threatened in its existence by the ‘spatial littering’ and ‘lack of quality’ omnipresent in policy documents. And if people should organize themselves around a praised niche invention, the authorities step in and simply develop new regulations. There is a danger that ‘because of self-referential behaviour, government will develop new authoritative and allocative rules that will complicate more bottom-up processes’. The question we have asked ourselves therefore must be in what ways we can find a way out of this dilemma. In the first chapter, we have already seen that ‘some suggest that government should learn to let go more and leave matters for civil society to solve’ (Horlings et al. 2006). Furthermore, ‘in fact citizens and entrepreneurs already seem to have growing influence in developments in public space’ (Aarts 2006): ‘new initiatives in the countryside emerge, which are not only prompted by self-interest of individuals, but often are the result of social engagement of actors around issues of landscape management’ (Horlings et al. 2006). What is, we could ask ourselves then, really the problem for these apparently self-regulating and articulate communities of actors who seem to know quite well what they want? ‘We conclude with the proposition that what is lacking in government activities and what is the potential benefit of emerging initiatives in rural-urban regions, is a capacity of agents to achieve their goals, or in other words, a “capacity of agents to act”.’ An important question in all this seems to be who is in and who is not.
92 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Zooming In: The Problem of Normative Questions in a Living Landscape My focus within this chapter lies in the following question: ‘What is the role of regional identity in regional problem definitions and the mobilisation of citizens (in the process of agenda-setting) towards sustainable regional development?’ The hypothetical scheme of aspects and effects of vital coalitions offers the following entries: Agenda-setting
Modes of alignment
Ideas and opinions Stories and storylines Activities Slogans, mottos and symbols
Actors Roles Initiative Pro-activity Representation Scale
Expectations Personal relations (In)formality Energy, motivation and commitment
Table 2 – Aspects and effects of vital coalitions.
A connecting question seems to be whether actors themselves experience ‘room to manoeuvre’ or are able to create it, and so whether they are able to realise ‘capacity to act’. Have you got / do you take / do you develop / do you see room to act and on what basis? What is helpful and what does not work?
Regional Identity as an Analytic Vehicle for Understanding Acting Actors The suggestion of the subject of ‘regional identity’ was met with some scepticism from the recipients. ‘Identity, what use is it to us?’ was the question asked time after time. Reactions such as these are understandable. It is after all a subject as tricky and hard to conceptualize (and then make operational) as ‘sustainability’ and ‘vitality’. Identity, is that not too soft, too old-fashioned, or yet again too obvious to regard is as a separate factor in the functioning of coalitions of actors? In my opinion, however, the discussion is brought too quickly and too easily into the realms of economics and politics, where the 93 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
acting actor and the networks of interacting actors seem to chance into pieces on a chessboard, where the main issues are ‘power’, ‘means’ and ‘motives’. To me, the nice part of the research at hand is the fact that it primarily deals with people. Within the sustainability triangle of people, planet and profit, at the people end there is splendid potential of reaching out to the other domains, namely the aspects of culture, stories and acting human beings (sometimes inconsistently). This is why in the course of my international research (see also Chapter 4) I have proposed a fourth ‘P’, which is the ‘P’ for Passion (Curré 2008). What is interesting is what makes people stand up for their region, start acting at all for something that could easily lie beyond their observation horizon and begin talking, developing and generally investing time in often complex and seemingly impossible processes.
Layout of the Rest of the Chapter Let us now leave behind for a moment the concepts of sustainability and coalitions staring at us and zoom in on the possibly refreshing value and functioning of the concept ‘regional identity’, to be able to see what is actually happening in regions where development is concerned. What agendas do we see, how do they come about, who considers them their own agenda and why? Research was performed in two Dutch regions, viz. Heuvelland ZuidLimburg (the South Limburg Hills) and het Groene Woud (the Green Forest region in Noord-Brabant). First, we will delve a little deeper into the concept, then have a look at the regions, and finally ask ourselves what they can teach us on the potential contribution we can provide to the larger question posed in this booklet with the insights gained.
94 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
On Region, Identity and Landscape ‘The research report God in Nederland1 has, however, shown that everything which provides identity is attractive and provides stability’ – (de Volkskrant of 6 June 2007)
Identity between Past and Present: Ethnological Tool in the Toolkit An interesting interview was conducted with father and son Van der Dunk, both prominent historians, on the subjectivity of historical perception (Giesen 2007). A movement ‘back to one’s own history, back to one’s own life’ they saw, which they position at the national level and which they link to the greater international/global development, which they think are ‘too big and too obscure’; a quest for identity, in which global manifestations and a yearning for authenticity do not have to exclude each other. ‘A silly Anglo-Saxification of language and culture’, both state, ‘especially where it is an extension of the Dutch commercial identity. We do not care what language we speak, as long as it is profitable’. Steven van Schuppen (2007) elaborated, as it were, on the general adage ‘globalisation means nationalisation’ in the shape of a survey of the presentday perception of the Dutch landscape and the roles various parties play in it. The designer’s arranging hand, the ‘Great Grasp’, as a steering force between conservatism and the urge for innovation, in which well-known designers such as Adriaan Geuze see a degradation of landscape and horizon by means of sloppy local management and a retreating central government. In a review of Van Schuppen’s work, Schoo (2007) points at seemingly new, but actually historically repeating forms of appropriation of the protector/pioneer role: the elitist character of embracing the Naardermeer (around 1900 at the founding of the Vereeniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten and around 2000 at the construction of a motorway), where celebrities set themselves up as ambassadors of the good cause. Mostly their fight for the protection of ‘nature’ in fact deals with a ‘cultural monument’, Schoo subtly notes, looking for the stereotype of a ‘typical’ landscape. Schoo also quotes Willemien Roenhorst, who pointed out the blurring of culture and nature in the interbellum, the basis of the German heritage preservation philosophy that combined the protection of nature and landscape with that of monuments and popular culture, but which became less widely
Bernts et al. (2007)
95 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
supported after World War Two for obvious political reasons. Popular culture and ethnology, Schoo states, are experiencing a revival ‘while we are all looking the other way’. They are participating in the public integration debate, albeit in disguise, and fill the toolkits of post-modern urban and rural planners, spatial arrangers and – some – conservationists. The modern-day spatial planning discipline emphatically wants to be, according to Schoo, ‘cultural planning’, imbued with cultural data, full of respect for ‘places of remembrance’ and the cultural and natural history of place and region (Schoo 2007).
Identity as a Biography of the Landscape – to See, or Not to See? The scope of this chapter, in which we mainly would like to have a look at two cases, unfortunately does not allow for full analysis of the relationship between identity and region, and putting these two concepts into practice in relation to each other. What I would like to do, however, is consider the ‘logic of region and actor’ by means of focusing on the concept of region in a few important works often referred to that fall somewhere between the domains of science and policy. Furthermore, I would like to have a specific look at actors in their regions and how they do or do not succeed to (re)vitalise their regions by forming chains. The next paragraph will therefore zoom in on the story of a region and regional products, and at this chapter’s conclusion, a model will be presented as a hypothesis, in which I will identify the various forces at work in an analytical relationship to each other as the result of my fieldwork. According to Renes (1999), in the discipline of historical geography, the balance of attention is shifting from landscape itself to the meaning of the landscape to people. This remark moves geography closer to the humanities, a shift that is paralleled within ethnology, where there is increasing attention for the ‘ why-question’ as opposed to the more describing, mapping approach of ‘what’. Adding meaning and appropriation form the framework within which we try to interpret complex developments in society. The actor playing an increasingly greater role in these developments may be explained by the shift from a static to a more active perspective, in which we show (renewed?) attention for stories in the landscape. Rooijakkers (1999) terms this the cultural biography of the landscape as an interpretation of one’s own environment: ‘an overarching biographical construct, a regional epic, in which there is room for many points of view and perspectives, doing justice to the multiple layers of identities’ (note the plural). Kolen (2005 and 2006) has given attention to the biography of the landscape as a historic texture belonging to a place, but focuses on the observation that 96 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
this term may lead to more complexity in understanding ‘regional identity’. ‘It enables individuals and groups to identify themselves (in a process of appropriation, note of the author) exceedingly with geographically and historically deep histories. The concept of “identity” therefore is charming and alluring, but at the same time somewhat tacky and fairly impenetrable.’ The landscape of a country or region can apparently be distinguished from other countries or regions by an individual identity, Renes finds (1999). This identity for the most part is rurally oriented and is seen as static. He argues in favour of demystification for a better understanding of the concept, in the tradition of Hobsbawm, whereas we can also – when we add the ethnological perspective – specifically read the stories in the landscape through its actors, albeit indeed methodologically not from an essentialist perspective. Regional identity is, according to Dirven (1993), ‘on the cutting edge of uniqueness and general theory’. They review the work of Paasi, who is seen as one of the most important current theorists on the subject. In his 1986 article, he moderates regional identity three times: developmental stages of regions (which can explain why they have very different properties), the properties that change over time themselves and, thirdly, the awareness of these properties and the selectiveness of their representations. During the Nethur lecture in Nijmegen in 2000, he added the question whether we, talking about Regional Identity, ‘are reflecting tradition and the past or [whether we] are trying to find elements that can be employed actively, in practices of exclusion to keep the other away’. A further publication of Paasi (2003) states that the concept in current practice only seldom is made operational. Identity becomes its own (policy) truth. He warns for the danger that regional identity is seen as an independent empirical whole which, after studying of its forms of appearance, itself becomes equivalent to the subjects studied (confirmation, essentialization and reification of a dynamic story). This is why I explicitly used the term ‘the story behind the story’ earlier and why I will continue to do so here. Alterra analysed and checked the container term (Kruit 2004). Their conclusions include that the concept is more suited as a process instrument rather than a checking instrument; that streek covers the meaning more adequately than regio (people have more pronounced feelings for streek) and consequently that the concept can indeed reveal an active role of actors in their regio or encourage this through the large room for appropriation2. It
There is a subtle difference between the Duch terms ‘streek’ and ‘regio’, both of which translate as ‘region’ in English. The term ‘streek’ carries more emotional, down-home connotations.
97 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
triggers the emotional connection and invites to participate in an open dialogue. Furthermore, Alterra points at the difference (in agendas) between conservation, development and marketing. More on the latter below. In the proceedings of the Constructie van het Eigene conference (Van der Borgt 1996), we find the additional question where the boundary lies between genuine interest in a regional past and the (re)construction of a regional identity of one’s own (cf. Paasi). Finally, Nijkamp (1999) indicates where, according to him, there are possibilities and necessities for further (scientific) research. The influence of local culture on the settling behaviour of entrepreneurs and employees is a largely unknown factor. Ethnic enterprise still brings up many questions as well, and lastly a better understanding of the region and its perceived attractiveness should be developed – can empirical findings indicate in a way relevant to policy what the curve and the interaction are between innovation, networks and actors within and outside of a region? A good start to the investigation of the last question is a publication by Habiforum, a Dutch innovation programme for innovative land use (Brouwer 2007). Positive development of a region, is it a question of luck or wisdom? A distinction is made between hard (e.g. infrastructure) and soft regional factors (e.g. surroundings, activities). Quality of life is an umbrella term for the whole of area characteristics. The dynamic balance between city and countryside is an important factor here, a balance that has not yet been adequately labelled. Cities no longer have to think in terms of a countryside ripe for colonising and the large green space has changed strongly in nature and knows itself to be both less and more dependent on the city. What is needed – balancing arrangements, city-countryside transitions, synergy agendas?
Regional Products: Holy Grail and Missing Link between Region and Identity? In Chapter 4 I have, as a result of earlier international research, pointed out the existence of the branding paradox, in which regional products become exclusive to the point of leaving the local population behind (which is not sustainable) and the danger of over-branding a country or province when too many regions want to put themselves on the (same) map (Curré 2008). In his inaugural lecture, Pellenbarg (1991) has pointed out a similar development. He juxtaposes identity, which is what you really are, with image, the ideal representation or the representation in the public opinion. Although this juxtaposition of ‘what you are’ and ‘what you seem’ appears to be a bit essentialist to me and I would rather talk about the story of a region, 98 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Pellenbarg offers a few very relevant findings from the economic-geographic angle, which we will meet again in relation to the cases in this research. ‘Apparently, the translation of economic development possibilities or “potentials” of a region into a set of exclusively economically-flavoured properties for a region offers too few grounds for explaining what really happens or could happen.’ Pellenbarg refers to a study, in which there was already talk of a ‘social climate’. According to Pellenbarg, the difference between public and private fits well with the duality identity–image, insofar as a region does not enjoy the same steering possibilities and interventions as an enterprise. ‘You could of course take the position that pure “image marketing” is simply possible, […] that a city or a region could easily be promoted by means of only vague references to the exact nature of the product.’ This is, however, dangerous, because disappointed visitors or investors will not encounter what they expected. That what is being offered and the image presented should be consistent, or else there will be a risk factor for the brand. However, ‘an enterprise is able to streamline its activities, products and services in such a way that a good corporate image may be built around them. But the Province of Groningen cannot simply divest, say, the Veenkoloniën region to Lower Saxony if it wished to, and take over the hills of South Limburg to enhance its regional image to fit its reshaped identity. […] Regional marketing is left with the single option to either emphasize or downplay certain strong or weak points.’ But there are others doing it as well, and according to this argument, standstill means decline, which could explain up to a point the desire for regional promotion. Development is not automatically sustainable to people, planet and profit and upgrading a region is not possible without (re)vitalisation. To what degree public and private parties are needed for this upgrade, remains the question. According to Agro&Co (2007), the new concept of ‘Regional Selections’ proves successful, since among others ‘food and nourishment belong, together with history, literature and language to the most important carriers of culture. […] Regional products contribute to the reinforcement of the Brabant identity. Identity can be developed by combining product and culture, provided that the end result is experienced as authentic and original.’ With Paasi’s warning in mind we immediately see that this kind of short-sighted policy lingo the goal almost overtakes the question: in an industrious search for cultural authorisation / foundation for a primarily economical activity, the image / marketing is almost made equivalent to the dynamic, multi-faceted and layered story of the region. Simplification can not only take away the magic, it can also hinder sustainability, like a snake biting itself in the tail. It seems to be the question here what exactly is the lifespan of an initiative. 99 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Roadmap: the Case Studies as Possible Keys ‘What have we got?’, rather than ‘Who are we?’ Because the latter question inevitably leads to a pitfall we have learned from Paasi, namely that we want to identify the area innovations with the famed ‘identity’. When we want to look from the perspective of a biography of the region, we will have to recognise that identity is a fluid concept, revealing itself in all kinds of manifestations and perceived and appropriated by all kinds of actors and parties. Both contents and process are always in flux, be it the moveable, immoveable or immaterial aspects. To put it in other words: from the perspective of cultural history or heritage, the available portable, immoveable and also the construed and perceived properties of a place, area or landscape are dynamic in character. Is it possible, then, to say anything of the direction and meaning of the developments we observe? Certainly, as long as we refrain from essentialist ‘fixing’ how something works ‘unchangeably’. Something we observe often these days is that regions wish to develop, put themselves on the map, and that the first question they ask themselves is, What is the story of the area, what is our identity? From the two cases studies, we will see that an approach of that kind does not always lead to a simple answer and that an area process could well become locked or overshoot the area’s aims.
100 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
South Limburg Hills: Spoilt for Choice for a Cultural Story of the Region Cultural Area Capital (What We Have) ‘What is a characteristic property? A good question indeed. Identity is what people have in common with each other. Ours is a catholic tradition and what we see here is originally a fairly agricultural story: all small villages, all small centres, lots of cohesion. Then you see at first the state mines plugging in, next all of the industrial development over here. And now there’s the advance towards the new economy, which is primarily the domain of healthcare/cure and biomedical materials, DSM and their consortium, Philips and the like. Dare to choose, dare to focus; we must be prepared to have cohesion, to look at a greater regional profile, to look beyond our boundaries. The lovely Hills, where you can relax, hike, play sports; it’s all part of the people as well, the more exuberant aspect, what we call ‘Burgundian’. So there are all kinds of ingredients to create an exciting region’. (The mayor of one of the Hills municipalities) Exactly at the moment when I began conducting my research in South Limburg – more specifically the South Limburg Hills, but the area is not clearly defined to everyone’s satisfaction; another current term is Mergelland – a vision report for the region (Kerkstra et al. 2007) was issued with flourish and alarum. Reasoning from a geographical perspective, somewhere in the research process it was decided to expand the ‘layer approach’ to include the cultural-historical dimension: ‘The Province of Limburg has added cultural history because South Limburg has an exceptional occupation history containing many visible and invisible markers in the landscape, which together determine South Limburg’s individual identity.’ This was subsequently put into practice by means of looking at archaeological relicts, visible historicalgeographical elements and historical-architectural monuments. The report’s conclusions were embraces, but it remains not at all self-evident who exactly is (able) to do something with it. One of the researchers involved, who has also held a lecture at the report’s unveiling, had this to say about it: ‘A possible problem is the so-called Wageningen Method, in which focus is strictly on the soil: the human population should not, as it were, interfere with it. An additional problem is the fact that the research team began with analysing and describing the past, but never “reached the present”. The 101 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
researchers concerned themselves, in fact, with city-countryside issues, but the ensuing criticism was that there were only camouflaging measures being put forth. The question is how the Landscape Vision fits other discussions and lines of development; we fear it will not take root. Rivalry exists between the Province and the municipalities, which is a governmental problem no plan can master. One of the more precarious points in the report states that, on the one hand, researchers from a historical legitimacy offer criticism on the current use of the landscape (far too green); on the other hand, that they nonetheless get involved in discussions concerning economic development. One of the criticisms involves the so-called slow food movement, because it is felt that this movement is far too weak as an economic carrier for regional development. I think that the landscape is the primary magnet for South Limburg, especially the Hills, because it is the distinguishing feature. The diversity in activities that is to carry and maintain this landscape in a vital manner is to be retained. ‘I think that sustainable economic carriers for South Limburg generally still seem to be lacking. An interesting point is that the definitions of both cultural history and cultural heritage have been stretch to the point that in principle quite a lot of the current niche development could be included. I find that the demand for identity is being appropriated by opportunistic branding actors. The subtleties of an area’s qualities are bound to get blurred. Carriers may in general represent authenticity and this may represent an economic value, but only when there is a clear perspective. On the other hand: actors that strive for conservation (of landscape elements, traditions and the like) are often not popular, neither with the government, nor with entrepreneurs. The two latter parties feel that heritage guardians only wish to lock an area and the developments within it. This leads to an interesting field of tension in the current policy making. The ethnological parties wish to preserve everything, from their self-proclaimed interests, or at any rate has this stigma (but here, too, everything depends on the specific actors and their other roles within society). Limburg is at a watershed between cultures; it remains the question how matters are put into practice via the trail of heritage in the development agenda for the region.’ This quote offers a multi-faceted but clear view of the challenges for the area’s development agenda. We will return to the knowledge present (as laid down in visions and programs, and especially their effects on parties in the region) and the actors that wish to create sustainable innovations in the next paragraphs, together with the question whether we see coalitions (emerge) and whether these appear to be sustainable. 102 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
For this moment, we will return to the interesting question to what extent people think the South Limburg Hills are ‘different’. I have learned from many websites, many leaflets and many people that there is ‘something special’ about the area. The editor in chief of a regional lifestyle magazine has the following to say about it: ‘In our magazine, the word “identity” as such is not always used literally and not that often at all either, but has in fact been an tacit starting point from the magazine’s inception. Not in an ethnological sense, but rather to appeal to a certain feeling, a way of life. Here in Limburg, you find a number of properties – certainly within the borders of the Netherlands – that are a bit different. The way it is perceived that people in Maastricht dress so smartly and interpersonal manners, has to do with the historical links to other cultures, more so than in Holland. You can sense it to this day. Interviews in our magazine mainly deal with the possibilities of the region. Should you preserve identity or rather modernise it? The European dimension is an important factor and becomes even more important, in the sense that the question is raised what to do with it in day-to-day practice.’ How to deal with old and new in area development? Until a few years ago, one got the impression that traditional folklore was seen as a bit ‘corny’, many indicated. Who would join a civic guard society? Now you can see a clear change in that regard. The interesting question is for what reasons. A possible explanation is that people travel more and, by doing so, learn to appreciate the values and individual characteristics of their own region and bring that sense of appreciation back home. This way, processions and folkloristic festivals enjoy new interest. Especially the combination with regional products and the landscape reinforce the perception elsewhere, and instead of looking down on these kinds of aspects, they are being re-evaluated. Old customs are seen in a new light and people appear to increasingly value customs being present in their region at all. This has all to do with re-evaluation and there is no need to be cynical about its relation to economic development. The fact of the matter is that many people born in Limburg but now living elsewhere, return once or twice a year to Limburg to experience traditions in their native village. The ‘sense of identity’ is clearly present in that sense.
103 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 25 – The cooperation of 60 cultural festivals in Limburg, who have also conducted a small-scale research of their own and who have presented it collectively to the political parties, the sponsors and subsidisers. It showed that every euro being invested results in proper economic rendability, which, however, does not directly end up in the cultural sector. ‘So, in other words, it does indeed pay when you look at culture with a purely economical view.’
It seems clear, at any rate, from the reasons for the research that the presence of ‘something characteristic’ certainly is relevant to the dwelling and working climate, and so for the economic dimension of regional development. International companies are willing to offer their hard-fought specialised employees good conditions and the cultural climate appears to be an important aspect. In a related action, Maastricht bids to become Cultural Capital of Europe for 2018 and, to this aim, is strengthening historical ties with Liege and Aix-la-Chapelle. ‘Identity does not end at the border and everyone working in branding should well realise that.’
Cultural Area Knowledge (Programming) In area development, the approach appears to be primarily economic in nature, judging from programs such as New Markets, in which the starting point is that we are dealing with an ageing population, economic stagnation and touristic supply that is becoming outdated. Any new development should be based on the story of an area, most respondents agree, to avoid creating an empty-shell construction only aimed at short-term gains. There are specific cultural-historical and cultural qualities in the area which may be used, but at 104 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
present the contribution of the cultural dimension looks somewhat fragmented. The New Markets initiatives call for the Province to elaborate on ideas. The Province, however, declines because it feels that this is the responsibility of the region. Only when concrete initiatives have been put forward, the Province will provide support by means of financial contribution and embedding into implementation plans. It is interesting, from the agenda-setting perspective, to see that the New Markets initiatives appear not to have any clear issues that should be put on the agenda. The feeling in South Limburg is that there is a deluge of plans pouring over the region, which lacks coordination and a clear agenda for further initiatives or development. Whether or not this is true, we see that this can slow down processes and actions become parallel (with the risk of detriment or redundancy) and all this reinforces the Limburg pattern of action observed by some respondents, ‘wait and see’. On the other hand, it is true that there appears to be room for manoeuvre on a more local level, more in the track of the entrepreneurs themselves. In the fields of e.g. wine culture and regional products there are many initiatives, but it is not quite clear what weight they pull and to what other initiatives they may be linked. In Eijs-Wittem, for example, there is a beautiful regional products store at a splendid location, where one would be forgiven for thinking one were in Tuscany (but how many Tuscanies can the Netherlands bear, one of the respondents sighed); at country estates experiments in viniculture are being conducted. There is a further chain of producers gathered around the Bisschopsmolen in Maastricht, another trader in Sittard and a regional products store cum restaurant in Gulpen. Additionally, the Gulpener brewery is the main force in a local consortium in which yeast, hops and water are being produced in a biological-sustainable manner, featuring a real hops harvesting day in September that is accessible to visitors. The respondents see an explicit link between the quality of experiencing the activities on offer and the effort’s results. Tuscany, after all, is “merely” an agricultural environment, but comes to life by means of telling stories and enhancing quality. Preparing food based on regional products may work very well in the Hills as well, it is felt. The story of a region is developed this way and so offers additional economic value as an attractive dwelling and working area. ‘It is important to recognise the roots of the region.’ As mentioned earlier, there is a Landscape Vision in which cultural history is included as one of its dimensions, but in which it is not quite clear where the insights gained should take root. The Province is involved in spatial and economic initiatives with many of its departments, but here too it is not always 105 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
clear what interest predominates and from which agenda a given (sub)area is worked. The cities of South Limburg are members of the Tripool cooperation body; there are area committees that, in cooperation with the Province, are active in e.g. the lower Geul valley and the Country Estates Zone near Maastricht; and the Tourist Board is active in a regional capacity – not least to be able to offer arrangements and regional product combinations.
Figure 26 – The Savelsbos woods are special for their historical land use and the fact that all kinds of mineral extraction have taken place here, from prehistoric flint stone extraction to gravel, loam, ‘everything but coal’. This is a characteristic property of the area, and Staatsbosbeheer wants to exploit the story’s possibilities. They have ‘succeeded’ in making this idea part of the Landscape Vision of the Municipality of Margraten, who have embraced it and identify themselves with it.
What seems clear is that regional, individual actors consider the story of the area or its ‘identity’ clearly something to do their best for or to link it to their own activities. Especially the making of choices may well be the hardest part, or, as a pub owner in Gulpen told me: ‘It’s actually going too well in the Hills. As the village’s younger population, we have long come up with the notion that we have to play into certain target groups and a location’s experience; especially the new generation of entrepreneurs wishes to channel the success and consolidate it, lest they throw away the baby with the bath water.’ In that sense, they directly link identity and development and the interesting part in that is that by doing so, they do not ‘traditionally’ align with policy priorities of just the government, but rather with area development as an integral issue for multiple parties. The partners predominantly present in the area are government-related, which means that actors in these processes primarily have to deal with government rationalities. The main challenge for area development seems to be the determination of area priorities and involving the citizen. 106 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
A short diversion into history shows that Limburg, especially as compared to the ‘outside world’, has known a certain organizational pattern for a long time: Catholic dominance, dominance of the state mines (which became DSM), and a few key actors who decided what society looked like. The secularisation and the removal of traditional socio-political barriers known in the Netherlands as ‘depillarisation’ only penetrated Limburg as late as the Eighties. When Queen’s Commissioner Cremers entered office in 1977, he stated that he thought Limburg should focus on a change in mentality: not looking at others, but acting for themselves. The change towards local entrepreneurship has really not yet completed, which is shown by the degree of strength in development plans. According to a Province strategist, the Acceleration Agenda is a prime example: ‘It is tough to determine the value of something in the here and now, but it seems that that movement has only just begun to gather steam. The sense of urgency has apparently not been very high and, influenced by the pillarisation and the dominance of a few institutes, actors felt little room to manoeuvre. Add to that that South Limburg society is changing, now that ever more outside people come to live here and the German TV channels are not on by default anymore. People used to go to university in Aix-la-Chapelle, now they go to Eindhoven, and dialect is no longer universally spoken.’ This Hollandification seems paradoxical in relation to South Limburg’s position as a Euregion. In policy circles, talk has been for over 50 years of intensifying cooperation with Hasselt, Liege and Aix-la-Chapelle, but this is not in step with day-to-day reality. At a more personal level, these connections do exist. As regards preconditions, the time seems ripe for regional development, and the ‘Burgundian’ culture of negotiating could well prove helpful. ‘The obstacles for regionalisation can be very banal at times, such as the fact that none of us speak French.’ Area development as taken up by the Province runs through the various provincial programs. The starting point has been, to avoid muddying up issues, that it is primarily a planning intervention. Especially to emphasise that it should be about an integral business case, cooperation with the other partners should prove how the added value for the ecological, economic and social-cultural domains is taken up. There is already so much policy projected onto South Limburg, it is argued that it seemed useful to promote public-public coalitions first, and involve entrepreneurs later. In this, an actor analysis was and remains crucial.
107 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Cultural Area Initiatives (Actors as Intermediate Dimensions within the Story of an Area) Intermediary force #1: actor and factor The editor in chief of the regional lifestyle magazine knows full well that he, as editor of a well-known magazine and also from his personal reputation and position, is a factor in the region and its development process. He is careful not to become an extension of e.g. the public relations department of the city of Maastricht. But cooperation is, of course, taking place. A nice case in point is the TEFAF stand, which is still primarily run by the magazine, but which over the years has seen increasing involvement from the city and the province as contributing parties, as they increasingly more clearly saw the significance. ‘We don’t sell art, we sell a network. The occasion of their contribution was highly anecdotal, however: the Mayor of Maastricht came to officially open our stand at TEFAF and informed to the location of the City of Maastricht’s stand, only to learn that there was none.’ (Editor in chief of regional lifestyle magazine) Intermediary force #2: well-known entrepreneurs who actively ‘raise an area’ ‘I asked people from the New Markets round table conference. I happened to run into them regularly anyway and it transpired that we shared many convictions; besides, they were born and raised here and know the lay of the land. Cooperation is achieved with some difficulty here, historically caused by the tripartition. The East of Limburg is Germanic, the West Anglo-Saxon, the South Romance in orientation. All this history does not particularly help cooperation. There is an implicit willingness with entrepreneurs, they know it is a must to them, a necessity even, but they do not succeed. At first we were eight, then nine. At the invitation of the former CEO of the Gulpener brewery, we first met in his pub, De Zwarte Ruiter (Black Horseman) in Gulpen. When the meeting came to an end, we needed a name for our cooperation network, and it became the Zwarte Ruiter Conference.’ (Marketeer living in the Hills) Intermediary force #3: paralysing sense of history ‘We have also forever been an international bargaining chip. Perhaps this is why, in my opinion, we have not learned quite enough to live in the knowledge that we were part of a greater whole and why we have never had the “guts” and the “spirit” to create our own future. This sums up the criticism, the 108 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
challenge we have in our region. Which is not something versus another thing, but grasping opportunities as they arise, looking at the environment in another way. Not from the perspective of problems, which is something that is deeply rooted in some people. Looking at the cross-border regions, seeing problems. I think that being a border region presents us with a unique opportunity: 10 kilometres from here, people speak French, German. Have a go at bringing young people together. There’s a golden opportunity staring us in the face, including the variety in culture. But it takes entrepreneurship; it takes people who see it that way. And still the historical, traditional mindset prevails: “Let things pass as they come, all will turn out right, we have no say in it anyway”. And that, I think, sums up the tension present in this region.‘ (Mayor of one of the South Limburg Hills municipalities) Intermediary force #4: actors feel that networks are natural, but forming chains not self-evident ‘There are a lot of local administrators in the region, whose main challenge it is not to get bogged down in syrupy loyalty processes. For entrepreneurs, government-promoted cooperation (public-private partnerships etc.) is not selfevident either. They find each other in small-scale networks and formulas that prove to be fruitful, but this does not seem to feed back well into the administrations’ policy agendas. The reality of the small entrepreneur is at a wholly different level than new market development, and on a different level from the administrators’ infighting. I would say to the South Limburg Hills people: do not focus too much on chauvinism, too small arenas and networks. The Hills are too often consciously avoiding mentioning Maastricht. In other words, move beyond parochial politics, in which e.g. Eijsden and Margraten form a coalition and Valkenburg, Gulpen and Vaals try something completely different. You have to be willing to make use of each other’s story opportunistically.’ (Editor in chief of regional lifestyle magazine) Intermediary force #5: a sense of urgency to sustain dynamism in the region ‘The trigger to act on it at this point in time mainly originates in the marketplace, the entrepreneurs, rather than public spheres. I am involved with DSM myself. When you look at the flow, at the staff, you find that there will be an outflow of some 45% due to baby boomers retiring. A company such as DSM knows: this will go wrong in a big way if we do not act on it. It is not too big a problem for a company of small to medium size: they simply pack up and take their business elsewhere. But for a company the size of DSM, with billions of investments in the area, it will not be as simple to move shop. 109 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
So it was chiefly those people who raised the alarm.’ (Spin doctor for the Hills municipalities) Intermediary force #6: outside attention ‘Limburg has always been flooded by tourists, but one wonders for what specific reasons nowadays. It is clear that they visit the area for a day or a few days (event) and no longer reside in boarding-houses for long periods, as was the case in the Sixties and Seventies. They now want quality and experiencing the environment in a respectful manner. This is a course instigated by the marketplace itself and which is being facilitated. We are certainly dealing with a quality impulse and with people who are willing to spend a bit more in the region.’ (Strategist at the Province of Limburg) ‘Which is fine, you have to build up tourism ambitions in a certain way, especially when dealing with the Hills. It is my feeling that we should generate more turnover with less tourists, have a quality boost. So this is a good way to do it, when it fits the picture. You have to be careful, though, that the life quality dominant in the brand does not cause the area to be overrun. Imagine that you have chosen that beautiful location here, you would not wish for your city or village to be flooded on Sundays by tourists, cars and motorbikes. You have to be prepared to make choices.’ (Spin doctor for the Hills municipalities) Intermediary force #7: the dynamic lifestyle of the inhabitants themselves ‘In practice, you find that a lot of people work and are cultural consumer in Maastricht but live in the Hills. The villages surrounding Maastricht have preeminently become commuter villages. The city-countryside antithesis, especially regarding Maastricht, seems to be a bit hyped; in that sense, it appears to be a cultural myth, but in the field of cultural policy it is quite real. In policy making, actually, the city-countryside antithesis is played up. The cities are the focus of cultural policy and receive most of the national monies, causing the countryside municipalities in comparison to suffer in that field. At the same time, it is unmistakably clear that Maastricht has a regional function and is seen as such. Additionally, people cross the border quite easily, to go home or to make use of facilities.’ (Cultural historian) Intermediary force #8: the story deviser and teller ‘During the last few years a discussion has been started on the branding of the area, but this has long been a fragmented affair with lots of working groups 110 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
scattered all over. There were a lot of themes, both connected and unconnected to sustainability. Their names have been creative, but also evoke wonderment. The Province has stepped in saying, Let’s bring a bit of cohesion into it, and has appointed three persons to take on this issue. The question is to what degree the new area development and branding initiatives are based on the realities of the region. The triumvirate has come up with this question as well and has found that it is not at all that easy to get a cooperation framework off the ground. They have come up with a profile and a slogan, which have sparked new discussion, because at first the slogan was about Limburg but excluded Maastricht and now a compromise has been reached: “Everything points to the region – Maastricht in Limburg”. This, however, offended sensibilities in the other South Limburg municipalities because of Maastricht’s presumed arrogance. When you want to have an identity and an image and you think you could profit economically or however you like, it’s all about how outside people view it. I still think that something of an inferiority complex is shining through in the way in which defensive choices are made in this process. You could, for instance, tell a story, starting from the core message, about there being a beautiful Hills countryside with corresponding qualities.’ (Editor in chief of regional lifestyle magazine) ‘Branding should be about installing an umbrella concept, within which parties can appropriate aspects and at the same time add parts. A similar initiative was tried in 2005 (LimburgImago), but it proved rather complex. While on the eye-catching subject of regional product, I would like to point out the power of levels of scale. Preuve Limburg is primarily about Maastricht, as is Citymarketing Maastricht, and the latter is not at all linked yet to the Hills chains of entrepreneurs, and I for my part as “administration” party feel uneasy about it, and feel confused in my role. There could and perhaps should be more tuning and cooperation, especially within a greater (European) logic.’ (Strategist at the Province of Limburg)
111 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 27 – Preuve Limburg operates out of Maastricht (as part of the New Market ‘Volle Smaken’, or ‘Rich Tastes’) and is an ‘upmarket’ way of offering regional products. ‘Especially for the foreign target group, it is expected that these will be people who have money to spend and so will desire a certain amount of quality’. The South Limburg Hills have their own marketing chains, while the Tourist Board is establishing a presence in this field of play as well.
Cultural Area Innovations (Coalitions?) ‘But that regional culture, that folklore, you should always cherish it, for yourself as well. It is part of your common patrimony. But it is a tourist product as well, as it is at the location you visit yourself while on holiday, it’s nice, those landscapes and so on. But the real highlights are the people in the region, when you get into contact with them, when you get a feeling of how they relate to the world, how they approach their profession. Then you discover new aspects, something grows, as if the region opens up to you and you open up to the region.’ (Mayor of one of the South Limburg Hills municipalities)
112 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
When we look at the South Limburg Hills and the question posed in this research, we try to find out whether there are (initiatives for) coalitions and to what degree these coalitions are vital and/or sustainable, and to what degree they are based on ‘regional identity.’ Who?
Innovation, revitalisation, promotion
The cultural sector
Preservation (by means of change…), powerful innovation and new awareness
There is an inclination to go for the higher segment, at least programmatically. New Markets, LIOF and the Province all wish to “maintain or increase turnover with less people”. At the same time, an additional emphasis on the area’s qualities is necessary. A new focus (branding, new thematic approach, such as healthcare-cure) makes direct use of the landscape and the perceived tranquillity and uniqueness of the region. Whether this is in step with the Hill’s reality, where supply along the so-called Mergelland Route is dominated by boarding-houses, campings and restaurants, remains to be seen. A very large segment of tourists seems to come to Limburg from habit (‘Limburg is like being abroad within the Netherlands’). Many entrepreneurs in the Hills that I talked to, as well as intermediary agencies such as the Tourist Board, indicate that they feel current innovations are aimed too high and fly over. They try to kindle enthusiasm in people for the story of the region themselves by means of regional product corporations and small-scale events. These networks are small in themselves, but vital at that. Scaling up seems to be an issue and can be promoted, but is not always felt to be necessary to actors, because development could be smothered in dimensions. The cultural sector in the South Limburg Hills is, as is often the case elsewhere, divided into two parts. There is a self-assured, mostly urban circle of facilities for dance, music, theatre. These actors feel a bit misunderstood at the moment, because they are not invited to participate in the innovation agenda of the policy and administration spheres, causing them to remain stuck in the ‘subsidy corner’ and say: ‘We are an economy onto our own with revenues for the entire region. What’s the reason people come here for: culture’. On the other hand, there is a more cultural-historical, ethnological lobby that has been stigmatised as ‘slowing down’ and that is seen –
113 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The (local) government
The ‘nature organisations’
(Literal) links, conservation and management
sometimes rightly so, as they admit themselves – as taking innovation hostage through conservatism. The traditional cultural expressions, however (traditions, folklore, clubs), are organised on this side of the fence and in so much of the knowledge and capital, culturally speaking, is vested in these actors and parties. At this moment in time, it purely depends on personal ties whether the two sectors meet and in that sense, there is no vitality working towards a sustainable agenda or regime. The city-countryside dimension can be recognised in several layers. Firstly, there is the historically perceived division between sjengen and peasants, i.e. Maastricht versus the Hills. From an organisation point of view, this applies to both the facilities and the flows of money. As regards the cultural story, it is a typical mental construct, from which nowadays strength is derived (‘we’ll do it on our own’), rather than being viewed as a hindrance. Many Hills residents go to work in Maastricht; additionally, many people from South Limburg nowadays live in Belgium. Mobility is high in the region and always has been important, also historically. A consultation framework between the Hills municipalities is in place and they employ an actual spin doctor (even though he prefers not to call himself that!) to generate policy and agenda in relation to the Tripool (the three main cities). The municipalities meet in working organisations and form alliances. They are clearly challenged to think beyond their own boundaries (nWRO/WMO, or New Spatial Planning Act / Social Support Act), but at the actor level, much depends on knowledge and negotiation skills. One of the mayors is highly committed to the region, to be sure, but has a history in policy making at the regional level and so is seen as both encouraging and impeding. He is the South Limburg Hills ‘incarnate’, however, and so an important promoter of an integral cultural story of the region. How and when this all links to such things as the branding agenda, will depend on personal and resulting administrative coalitions. Possession of large tracts of land, interests, double agendas, give and take, looking no further than one’s own interest and fighting for the greater interest of the area’s liveability. Signals voiced by the nature conservationists in the region, where the national
114 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The entrepreneurs / the marketplace
Promotion, innovations, continuity
‘Great Two’ and the provincial trust own land scattered all over the patchwork that is the Hills landscape. There are major challenges in the area, because there is a great demand for quality, but there is also a supply of mobility and infrastructure. It is very interesting to see that the nature parties put in their bit for the area’s cultural history as well, as if it were the ‘natural’ thing to do in the Hills because of the qualities present, but it is felt that making contact with the cultural sector is at times difficult. The nature organisations are working, however, on storylinebased education and unlocking, but at the edges of their lands, tension grows. A vital coalition around the cultural-historical estates zone North of Maastricht seems to be in the making, but is heavily based on formal modes of cooperation by means of area committees and who owns what plot of land. I would like to draw separate attention to this group’s pluriform agenda, which actually is hard to consolidate but which does seem to have its own voice on the playing field of area development in the Hills. The province had deemed scaling up sustainable coalitions in the area to be a problem, but this only seems to be playing into the room to manoeuvre that large parties claim for themselves than the desires of the large majority of the entrepreneurs in the Hills themselves. In fact, the small scale generates a lot of charm and scaling up is not always necessary to provide the marketplace with a new impetus. Regional products are at the focus when dealing with level of scale, whereas there are certainly other dimensions to the agenda-setting role of culture in the Hills. Large companies such as DSM see a rising demand in young employees as a result of natural developments. The presence of a good dwelling and working climate is of paramount importance, both for those returning to the region and new settlers. An interesting field of tension, which is seen oftener in countryside development, arises when the newcomers – enjoying the cultural ‘humus layer’ of their living environment – oppose (perceived) innovation because it might affect their living enjoyment.
Table 3 – (Initiatives for) coalitions (South Limburg Hills).
115 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The Green Forest: National Landscape as a Story about Stories? Cultural Area Capital (What We Have) ‘In 2004 I became involved in the Groene Woud [Green Forest], when the Nota Ruimte [Note on Spatial Arrangement] designated it a National Landscape, which is when I was appointed project manager on the Province’s behalf. My assignment was to write an approach plan and to make sure an implementation program was made, and to prepare decisions on its borders. We started with a ‘Sherlock Holmes phase’, getting to know the network and all people involved. At the Nature and Landscape provincial department, a few people were attached to the project, and then there were a few external people. The basic idea was to promote nature and cultural history within the three-city triangle, both separately and in relation to each other, as a counterforce to urbanisation and rural cluttering. Conserving and linking the natural areas was what started it all and that initiative had to be given a name; during a meeting of the men of the very first beginnings in the Groene Woud pub in Liempde, that pub’s name was put forward as a moniker for the entire area, which was accepted.’ (Official involved on behalf of the Province of North Brabant) Along the road, the ‘green aspect’ was linked to other program tracks, i.a. in relation to the Nota Ruimte: urban networks for social-economical development were to be developed (BrabantStad [BrabantCity]) and in addition to the 20 National Parks, 20 National Landscapes were to be installed. Making the connection was easy (albeit not simple): a combination of both. At first, however, the Green Forest did not make the political shortlist of proposed National Landscapes. The member of the Provincial Executive involved, assisted by others, wrote a letter to Parliament in a private capacity and so it came about after all, along personal and political lines (2002-2003). In September 2004 a symposium on the Green Forest was held at Boxtel, which created a great deal of support. Next, the boundaries were on the agenda and this proved to be a complex point: what planning rules were to be observed? The ‘red’ ambitions and the agricultural plans have been kept outside of the National Landscape, to avoid promoting large-scale developments. Decision-making was, according to common opinion, ‘held up for a long time due to sensibilities, also due to pressure from the region’. There was a strong association with a ‘locked-up region’ (from experiences with National Parks). In 2006 an executing program was submitted to the national government, but this did not result in a (financial) reaction either. 116 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The means used to run the area at this moment are really regular monies, coming from the Ecological Main Structure and Reconstruction of Sandy Soils programs and European funding. The Province, by the way, has included the area in its Schoon Brabant program. There is a boundary, but the National Landscape and the ‘area as felt emotionally’ are by no means the same. Figure 28 – The Green Forest as it presents itself to inhabitants and visitors. It is interesting to see that no boundaries have been drawn in; a more symbolic experience map was chosen to invite people to get to know the area.
At a certain point in time, parallel to the branding track by then in course, demand arose to record a story of the area as determination of identity. A national firm of consulting engineers worked on it, which in hindsight was a not altogether satisfactory decision according to some. The consultants involved, regarded it as ‘something rational, whereas we are dealing with people, feelings and stories’. As in the South Limburg Hills, here the question remains: identity, what does it mean and what power does it have regarding the agenda for area development? ‘If you’re looking for a motto, I should say: “At home in Brabant – welcome, time for everything, «Groots met een zachte g»3”. What’s important is how you symbolise it, e.g. on the new road signs along the motorways, offered to the area on the occasion of the national AA organization’s jubilee. Citycountryside is an important dimension; the fact that the Green Forest is part of the countryside is an added value in itself. I think that if you were to swap the Frisian and Brabant population, both provinces would have looked different
This last motto, which was coined by a popular Dutch singer of North Brabant descent, is quite untranslatable. It alludes to both the region’s grandeur and its gentleness, exemplified by the ‘soft’, voiced way the (otherwise voiceless, harsh-sounding) Dutch guttural consonant is pronounced in the South of the Netherlands. ‘Majestic with a soft M’ would be the closest approximation, but for the fact that it is of course the g that is pronounced in a ‘soft’ manner, not the m.
117 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
than they are now, because a certain approach and point of view generate a certain type of landscape.’ (Official involved on behalf of the Province of North Brabant) The firm of consulting engineers hired states in its final report that they ‘in this project have looked for the identity of the Green Forest. “What makes the Green Forest the Green Forest?” This at the same time is the Green Forest’s power. The challenge remains to mobilise this power in an area process and deploy it for development. […] Additionally, to offer insight in the unique characteristics and properties of the Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch/ Green Forest and the development of themes and options for branding based on regional analysis. […] All parties involved collectively have to tell the story of the Green Forest.’ The following categories were discerned as elements of identity: Landscape and perception; Human nature; Villages; Cities; Nature; Force of attraction and Together towards a special Green Forest. The report’s consideration ‘What identity can be attributed to the Green Forest and how can this be propagated, will vary from person to person and will shift and be accentuated over time’, the following themes for development were distinguished:
Small-scale in a time when everything has to be large-scale Wood is either gold or firewood Relaxing devotion Enjoy the freedom Here, it is all about getting off your bicycle and enjoy
Working with an approximation of identity-related issues towards development themes seems to offer a way to make this difficult concept operational. Sessions have been held by several organizations, researches and development tracks to try to use association to capture what could be the basis for the story of an area in such a way that all riches may be included without smothering the story. A consulting firm has performed a factor analysis using web and street surveys and forced a four-group solution by means of the so-called ‘variamax’ rotation.
118 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
This resulted in the following images: Image no.
Experiencing / tasting
Fresh products Regional festival 2
Heath lands and meres
Streams such as Dommel and Beerze Round farmlands Nature reserves such as Kampina and De Geelders 3
Brabant at its best
Cultural landscape Historic buildings Exuberant (â€˜Burgundianâ€™) 4
Outdoor life / pleasure
Relaxation Forest and trees Table 4 â€“ Images for identity.
The main issue with these kinds of (fairly essentialist) views and approaches is that, true, a powerful image emerges, but it remains unclear what it means to whom and when and why. It may be a form of making it operational that can serve a purpose, but on the other hand it might well be looking for a problem when there is none: an urge to capture the indefinable in an essence. 119 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
When did the social-cultural aspect appear on the agenda of the actors involved in the Green Forest? Starting from 2005-2006, a regional festival was held and attention towards branding appeared. The implementation program was rather ‘green’, but in the current regional vision, economy the core qualities and the social-cultural aspect all come together. Still, many people involved feel that it is the social-cultural aspect that is not properly secured, pointing at a lack of ownership, direction and pulling power to offer especially this somewhat less tangible aspect of the story of the region a place of its own in the development discussions. A lot of schemes have been generated in the course of the last few years, for example the one in figure 29 below:
Figure 29 – Identity and diversity for the Green Forest.
The Green Forest’s ‘identity’ has now in their newly-written Regional Vision been declared to be (1) the green heart of BrabantStad (2) a liveable landscape and (3) the sense of community (the will to do and undertake things), in which it is understood that ‘liveable landscape’ may be defined differently in different (sub)areas. This results in variety being yet again the Green Forest’s binding factor. The question the communication experts involved, administrators and entrepreneurs collectively ask themselves is how all this may be told in plain language: how to write or tell the story of an area? ‘The story depends on things already present, complemented by new aspects – the concept invites, provokes innovation, I am convinced of that – it is a new stepping stone’, states the communications professional living in the area. This personal involvement being an important factor is something she wholeheartedly recognises: 120 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
‘As I was born and raised in Liempde, my roots literally are in the Green Forest. When I started working as a communications coordinator for the area, I came into contact with more than just “an area”. I was confronted with a living organism, an organism that has a life of its own, nourished by stories and the people who tell them. Stories about the Holy Oak, the cross that commemorates the murder of an Italian travelling salesman long ago: these are stories that breathe life into this organism. They are the stories that made me realise that I, for some reason or other, am part of it.’ For many parties, cultural history is not at the forefront. The objective of active area actors often is not primarily concerned with cultural history, but conversely cultural history does offer intrinsic depth to the story of the area and an assessment of the jewels present but often not fully realised. A nice case in point is the district water board retracing the old course of the Essche Stroom stream but at first completely ignoring the cultural-historical aspect. This dimension, it transpired, was completely foreign to these administrators, but a lecture in the village hall convinced them that this dimension was a means of connecting to people and generating goodwill. Those who are involved from the cultural and cultural-historical angle often feel that they are only asked to participate at the end of the process. The ethnologists present in the area call this the state when ‘the label is already there, but the product is absent. Ironically enough, we are then asked (implicitly or explicitly) to provide the flesh on the bones.’ The questions they ask themselves here are: ‘Is the Green Forest as such a coherent area? Could it be that there is only an economic motive at work here? Is there anything like a human factor still present?’, but also: ‘Are we not simply dealing with a folkloristic dressing being poured over the area to draw in tourists?’
Cultural Area Knowledge (Programming) ‘Where coalitions are concerned, it is about weighing options and making choices; guarding and considering your own interests against those of the other. We primarily represent the green aspect, nature, but of old we are culture minded too. But it can be hard sometimes to determine a position when, as a result of new policy, campings return in an area where they had been bought out before. On the other hand, people entrust us with the role of guardian of cultural history: “If there has to be a farm, at least we’ll know it won’t be on the Southfork scale”.’ (Area manager of a regional nature trust) It is clear that, looking from an analytical perspective, some coherence has grown from the development agenda’s approach for the area, whether or not 121 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
the actors involved are in doubt regarding the use of ‘soft’ factors. A palette of some 270 initiatives and projects has arisen, which could certainly be considered one of the area’s strengths. The Regional Vision mentioned earlier (drawn up by Wing/Alterra, Verkuilen and Imagro) provides for the administrative units ‘Loonse en Drunense Duinen’ (Loon and Drunen Dunes, the National Park adjacent to the Green Forest), the Innovation Platform Sustainable Bailiwick, the Structure Platform Green Forest and the Reconstruction Committee to merge into a new regional organization. ‘Which is needed, because everyone was pretty much operating from a Green Forest of their own.’ At the same time we can argue that the spontaneous and innovative power seems to have diminished in the interplay between Province and the national government on one side and the regional parties on the other. The bottom-up initiative is still there, but has grown out of the pioneer phase and it appears to be difficult to persist. Looking from this perspective, one is tempted to reason: let it become top-down for the moment, at least things will happen. Inspired by a visit to Cork, Ireland, it was decided to continue along three tracks: the European track, the entrepreneurial track and the knowledge track. Primary impetus is to come from the entrepreneurial track, it is commonly felt. A cooperative society is in the process of being established to take care of the commercial track; the social objectives have been placed with the Regional Festival foundation.
Figure 30 – In the Green Forest, many forms of cultural stories, tales and traditions may be discerned. Boxtel’s Blood Procession (left) is an example of socio-religious tradition, while the Regional Festival (right) appears set to become a new tradition, in which economy and culture combine their innovative forces.
122 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
In the Green Forest, many forms of cultural stories, tales and traditions may be discerned. Boxtel’s Blood Procession is an example of socio-religious tradition, while the Regional Festival appears set to become a new tradition, in which economy and culture combine their innovative forces. The cooperative society is to generate business using products (regional products at first, but this could branch out into all kinds of other goods); the Regional Festival foundation has as primary aim to gather the regional administrative bodies and social organizations into a board, allowing the people in the region to indicated what they themselves feel is important for the development agenda. From this input, the foundation distils a course, which is subsequently ‘imposed’ on the cooperative society. Hence, the philosophy is that consumers and inhabitants decide what the range of the label will be. For the Planet side of the 3-P philosophy on sustainability, six criteria have been determined. Now that there is a drive for organizational integration, criteria are being sought for the Profit and People angles as well. ‘If we don’t, it will become an entirely green plan again and [the Green Forest] will become a National Park instead of a National Landscape.’ The intermediate conclusion is that ‘there is plenty already’, and that it is primarily a matter of clever synergy. A characteristic aspect of the region was that there was a lot of bottom-up energy available. The nature organizations, ecologists, municipalities etc. had all come to the conclusion that an organization had to be established. We already had the Agrarische Natuurvereniging Het Groene Woud (Agricultural Nature Society Green Forest), in which farmers were active who were also administrators. From this society, the signal came that it had to remain possible to be an entrepreneur in the area, albeit with due respect for the environment. In 2004 an administrative platform was established, in which a number of key persons from the various interested parties had a seat. It is strongly felt by all parties that there has to be an economic carrier for the area. The entrepreneurs realise that, if they keep producing for an ‘invisible market’, they stand to lose support from the other parties in the area. For them, the main question is how they can promote a regional economy and make it more attractive for (young) entrepreneurs, for investments to increase. Certification and branding are initiatives aimed at that impetus. A marketeer active in the area, who is occasionally consulted (a farmer’s son himself, he has contributed internationally to development of the Senseo coffee-maker) has explained to the entrepreneurs that in this context, the only added value for their products may be derived from a story of the region. 123 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Additionally, the regional products simply have to be able to compete in quality and you have to be able to explain what’s behind it, to link it to area qualities, recreation and possibilities for appropriation. ‘People have to be able to think to some degree that the area belongs to them as well, which is why we need the story: then, the area can continue to exist and even become prettier. My fear is that large investors only want to realise large projects for large gains. The story is important to local people, but in the city-countryside relationship it gains connection and meaning as well. I want to form chains, administratively and with umbrella organizations and agricultural organizations as well’, in the words of one of the founding fathers of the region, an entrepreneur himself. In the same spirit, actions are afoot to organise an area council, in which actors from all domains can contribute to the story as it is told. It will be a small group of core people at first, well-known faces from the area, but there is a desire to look further. Organizing all kinds of things is fine, but how to deal with the story’s subtleties? The entrepreneurs have indicated that they do not wish to be involved in the scientific side of the development discussion all the time, but are at the same time well aware that knowledge has to be provided by them as well. The agricultural entrepreneurs are in a certain sense the spine of the first phases of area development (in addition to administrative support), including new the entrepreneurs from expanded agriculture. Up to 40% of the region’s lands will become available, and all actors and stakeholders together will have to determine what the new, favourable and sustainable directions will be. Scaling up is one possibility, niche development and new markets are others. The government could/should support these innovations, because there are many risks involved; product lifecycle versus product-market matrix. When circumstances change, entrepreneurs have to take action; a quality product, in this case a regional product, an alliance of identity and quality, with added value and possibly at a higher price. New activities are confronted with the problem of scale in order to be profitable. The zoning plan does not allow for much and this is adverse to regional innovation; transition zones and jurisprudence are sensitive points, but it is also a matter of ‘daring to do’, as it is felt. ‘Why should we be doing something with identity and how can we go about doing that?’ is the question often asked at meetings on the subject Green Forest. Identity almost has the aura of a commotion-causing concept in relation to the branding concept and it appears more and more as if it has been brought in from the outside as concept and problem definition, while at the same time it has proven hard to discover its intrinsic value. 124 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The term ‘identity’ can be a blocking factor as such, whereas it keeps cropping up in operations. One of the discussions led to the question how to translate a typically Brabant value such as ‘us’ into a useful handle? The discussion appears to become locked, because people think they ‘have to’ do something with identity, rather than consider the meaning of their own story in relation to the region. ‘Apparently, we think we can achieve other things that way. The exercise of discovering identity is carried out time after time in various shapes and forms and with varying parties, and gradually we are getting frustrated of nothing resulting from it.’ The pictures and lists of core qualities and USPs can, however, be real reasons for creative awareness: for identity is embedded in people and stories. As soon as it ends up in a report, it is externalised and ‘no longer part of us’. The same applies as for the area’s vision: recognition and appropriation are extensions of each other, but are by no means self-evident.
Cultural Area Initiatives (Actors as an Intermediate Dimension within the Story of an Area) Intermediary force #1: retaining recognisability and conceptualising in coalitions ‘Almost all our organization’s area managers are local. Exactly that local aspect is very important, as far as I’m concerned, as it offers recognisability and sustainability to the people. Our larger counterparts, the large organizations, to me are far more official. We get called at night and during the weekend. Our lines of communication are short.’ (Area manager for a regional nature trust) ‘I feel it is a concept that may be appropriated. It has to be put into the marketplace, true, it is not strange that (cultural) parties do not yet recognise us. It has started to shift from an area initiative towards something that is visible and recognisable. There are no boundaries for the National Landscape as yet. There will be, but for the Green Forest concept this is less relevant. The cities, for example, are not part of the National Landscape and do not primarily belong to the Green Forest’s identity, except when you’re talking about coalitions and cooperation. This is important for contrast, especially when you’re stressing distinctive features.’ (Communications professional)
125 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Intermediary force #2: Passion, or, the basic force of the story told personally ‘You have to love your area. If not, you would merely be doing your thing around the house. What this feeling is, I cannot explain. An example: I was asked indirectly to plot a bicycle route. I took my wife out cycling and along the way think of interesting points. There are so many places and stories that immediately spring to mind. Menno van Coehoorn’s grave, the pubs along the Oude Grintweg, the forest rabbets initiated by Frederick Henry of Orange, the round farmlands, the Holy Oak, a museum at Oirschot, you name it. Nature, cultural history, agriculture: these are the ingredients with which you tell the story of an area. New developments such as care farms or a Religious Heritage theme year fit in excellently.’ (Founding Father of the region, entrepreneur) Intermediary force #3: historical understanding at odds with the force of labelling ‘One of the most difficult initial discussions has been on naming the area. Some people wanted to use the historically-known handle ‘Meijerij’ (Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch), others categorically refused to cooperate if the region was not called Green Forest. The municipality of Oirschot stated they did not wish to participate in a National Landscape Bailiwick, because they felt they were part of the Kempen region. A Catholic sandy-soiled landscape between river and stream basins is what I called the more or less generally-specific Brabant identity image. Elements with feeling, as [regional singer-songwriter] Gerard van Maasakkers has it. People are passionately associated with the region’s agricultural economy.’ (Official involved on behalf of the Province of North Brabant) ‘Visibility is an important case in point; do not underestimate how people react from historical experience. In the Kampina, it was decided to deforest large tracts according to nature policy, but people have an image of the landscape and especially when bits of wood at the edges were actively cleared – good timber – my father said to me even then: “They deserve a right kicking for that, what a shame.” Sustainability is something encoded in human perception as well.’ (Area manager for a regional nature trust)
126 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Intermediary force #4: new construct = natural networking and new forming of chains ‘I had a vague notion of the Green Forest before, but the concept is increasingly better known and I’m surprised. You’ve got the Green Forest, then there’s the Land of Oirschot and what have you, all kinds of similar regional projects sprouting up. Once, this official from the municipality came here to explain all this. But it was such a vague story, we were none the wiser. We once had to apply for a grant – it is as simple as that when an organization such as ours wants to do something. On that occasion we were asked: “Do you wish to participate in the Green Forest?” But also:”Do you wish to participate in the Land of Oirschot?” But we of course had to know first what it was all about, what it implied and what was the difference between the two.’ (Curator of a regional museum)
Figure 31 – The story of regional identity is multi-layered. As many actors and parties recognise, there is a very strong cultural breeding ground present in the region. What proves difficult, however, is to combine forces and not get bogged down in all the separate initiatives that have been started by governmental bodies and enterprises. Synergy, understanding and goodwill will have to be the key aspects for a vital cultural story of the area.
127 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
‘The Green Forest is a new entity, projected over the Bailiwick but then again, not entirely. The municipality has an ambition of its own with the Land of Oirschot, including marketing and promotion. How far can one go in organizing and telling a multi-layered story of the area and still have people understand what you’re talking about? The “Land Of”, Tourist Board portals, it is an identity purely given form by means of branding. This chain development could be useful for sustainable area development, but I talked to a bee-keeper from a small village who wished to participate in the Land of Oirschot but was told he was too small and so fell outside any grant scheme. Lots of money go towards ‘fabricated’, new products, traditional activities miss out, when I think identity in a region should come from within, or behind you. As a museum we, however, do not feel the urge to participate because I see no room for synergy; who needs whom, and what for? It seems to be a “green story”, and I think green parties have never been involved much with the cultural sector. There is a demand for context, but it is not at all self-evident.’ (Curator of a regional museum) Intermediary force #5: added value of synergy between old and new ‘I am a pure-blooded entrepreneur and by definition disagree with the priest and the municipality and the provincial government and their policies; all obstacles for managing business. In 1994, we went to Den Bosch on our tractors to protest against the regional plan. Things got a bit nasty and then the change in thought came to me. I began to realise that the area did not belong to me alone. In the past, nobody ever came here, but now there are increasingly more people coming to the countryside; there is a new field of influence, a new demand for comfort and facilities, and so changes. Perhaps we could get into talks with those people, IVN, BMF etc. Talking leads to understanding is something I learned. I became an administrator at NCB/ZLTO, and at the end of the Nineties, Alterra issued a research report on the agricultural possibilities, limits, moving, added values; holding up a mirror.’ (Founding Father of the region, entrepreneur) ‘The Green Forest is a fabricated construct, invented from the idea that – not just from the nature aspect, by the way – ‘all people’ should stand to benefit from it. New initiatives, added value, city and countryside. It was not to become just a park, we wanted real area development, and there is only so much one can achieve by one’s own. The name is a bit leading and nature is, of course, at the core. But the idea is to create added value as a circular effect, from and for the benefit of nature. A farmer running a camping site plants new trees, resulting in a more beautiful landscape and providing indirect added nature value. More people will be attracted for both residence and 128 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
recreation, this is an aspect of liveability as well. Exactly the fact that it is a new construct allows it to rise above past interests and parties and offers opportunities for innovation.’ (Area manager for a regional nature trust) Intermediary force #6: the Atlas syndrome: area champions between Scylla and Charybdis ‘Working together with other regions is quite difficult; sometimes we succeed, but there is an opportunistic and defensive streak in regional interest. People are prepared to talk defensively about boundaries, never about content.’ (Founding Father of the region, entrepreneur) ‘Those responsible for policy produce frames, but who’s going to do the painting: who is going to implement rather than generate new frames? You should not only be occupied with cleaning up and clearing out, what we want is a truly sustainable area. When we do not succeed in making the three Ps agree, all will come to nothing. I took the New Markets report straight to the Province and told them this was to be included in the vision for the National Landscape. The same applies to branding – if that is not included, any chains formed in the region will not be area-related. It is a simple fact that the area is built out of heritage and historical landscape structures. We have to actively ask ourselves what the basis will be for a logic in the culture-economy relationship. We have so much on offer; all we have to do is get to learn to use it (better). From abstract towards tangible, sensory. Setting your cultural capital in motion.’ (Founding Father of the region, entrepreneur) Intermediary force #7: innovation equals dealing with representation and risk factor ‘Initially, the Dunes Farmers had a negative image. In 1990, it was not at all accepted in the ranks of the farmers to participate in an initiative such as a National Park. It almost amounted to treason and for a farmer to attend nature-related courses was not at all understood by his colleagues. This was the primary reason for at first not collaborating with LTO: that was where tensions lay. We were the avant-garde and this was not always appreciated. But it is fair to say that agriculture as a whole is experiencing now what the Dunes Farmers where going through back then in the pioneering phase. It has to do with mentality: I prefer the giant leap strategy over small, defensive steps one at the time.’ (Agricultural entrepreneur and politician, in-between ‘Park’ and ‘Landscape’)
129 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
‘Characteristic for a lot of people actively involved in developments in the area is that they are part of many networks, personal and of old. Local interests have often got to a higher level due to mergers. One of the most important proponents of the Green Forests hails from Liempde, just as I do, and is member of the same political party. In Brabant, despite it being of course a personal trait, a lot of countryside people have feelings for and are involved in traditions and old customs.’ (Communications professional) Intermediary force #8: the magic and the power of the story of the area constitute the x-factor ‘I think it is important for the area to ‘keep on amazing us’. This is the x-factor as regards the identity so sought after. The parties involved don’t know quite what to do with the region’s identity, but they do know it is a very important factor. The problem is, the qualities of the area are not properly recognised, but people nonetheless try to fix the story. The actors involved make the jargon their own and problematise the concept of ‘identity’, which amounts to taking it hostage. Which is a shame, because it hinders spontaneous exploration of the region.’ (External, but interested process expert) ‘I find that awareness of the cultural-historical location and the history of my enterprise has only come later on in my life. There were two main reasons for this: firstly, it is an aspect of life itself that you only realise later on that you are part of history and that you wish to pass on a story to your children, just like your parents and grandparents did before you. At the beginning of my career, I purely concerned myself with my business; the fact that I am a factor in the area is part of an awareness that came only later on’. (Agricultural entrepreneur and politician, in-between ‘Park’ and ‘Landscape’) ‘The sense of regional awareness in my opinion has increased. It is difficult to explain, but it has something to do with perception and authenticity. Local beer is no longer brewed in the village, but a considerable distance away under the business-like supervision of the new and larger owner. This does take away some of the lustre, even though it remains its separate brand. At the end of an excursion, I used to meet in the brewery’s pub, to see and taste the area, it is a very sensual thing.’ (Area manager for a regional nature trust) When we look at the Green Forest and the question posed in this research, we try to find out whether there are (initiatives for) coalitions and to what degree these coalitions are vital and/or sustainable, and to what degree they are based on ‘regional identity.’ 130 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The entrepreneurs / the marketplace
Promotion, innovation, continuity
The cultural sector
Preservation (by means of change…), powerful innovation and new awareness
The so-called ‘entrepreneurial track’ within the area development process has become all but the leading track in the development of an innovation plan within the area development process. Meanwhile, a corporation has been established to market regional(ly related) products. This corporation has been made independent of the Regional Festival foundation, resulting in the latter focusing on the creation of social support and offering guidelines. In the course of the process, the entrepreneurs quickly came to the conclusion that a ‘story’ was needed to generated added value for their products. Since the generally accepted analysis seems to be that the area as such offer qualitatively sound, but not specifically unique or inherent products, the legitimacy of a higher price is to be found in stressing the nature and origin of the subproducts and the production chain’s regional character. The corresponding discussion on certification proved tough, but it became clear to the entrepreneurs that they could indeed make use of cultural(-historical) elements to gain visibility and get marketing going. Round farmlands, geniality, spelt, accessible farms and markets in city and region all are part of the area’s cultural capital, but have not yet been connected in any obvious way. The corporation is an unmistakable coalition, as is the cooperation initiative with the surrounding social partners, but people are still looking for an answer to the question whether it will be possible to work in a sustainable, vital fashion. This sector is dormantly present in the area development process, is of a supraregional nature and ‘owns’ many of the area’s qualities. At the Regional Festival, one of the spearheads in presenting the story of the region thus far, culture is present in many ways: old traditions are (re)presented; many forms of artistry are shown; the media are present, extending the range and organising activities in and around the Festival is a coalition in itself. The fact that there is eagerness to participate from society’s ‘ground level’ could well be a sign of vitality; more and more clubs and societies are joining in the Festival’s new mode of
131 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
(Local) administration and government
presentation, which has primarily taken on a local form in the shape of presentations of villages and subareas. On the other hand, it should be noted that the sector itself is not that much involved in the Green Forest as a story of the region, for lack of a clear picture of what the advantages are to participate. The area’s actors from the Profit and Planet angles sometimes extend a(n asking) hand for the cultural sector to provide ‘flesh on the bones’ and support and also want to highlight the ‘area’s pearls’ in the story of the area. Still, there are no alliances or supraregional logic being formed. The ‘identity’ as presented by the sector in the area is pan-Brabantic rather than regionally specific. Initially, the basis for the regional development idea was green in nature and in fact primarily government driven. Officially, that is, because one of the defining characteristics of the Green Forest was that there was a lot of bottom-up energy being generated. The entrepreneurs failed, however, to bundle their forces in the face of a forest of ‘administrative fuss’ and a multitude of initiatives that seemed hard to fathom or structure. Momentum arose in the administrative sphere due to the status of National Landscape being assigned to the region, which had to be projected over an already existing historical region (the Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch). Identity issues immediately arose, as a name had to be picked, boundaries had to be determined and the area’s qualities had to be charted to get a clear picture of the new structure’s added value. It helped a great deal that a liaison officer for one of the municipalities involved was present; the involvement of a prominent regional entrepreneur has also resulted in ‘green’ and ‘business’ tracks. Both persons, complemented by various other returning actors, were part of all meetings. At present, a new step seems to be taken, in the shape of the establishment of a new regional organisation, but this is a top-down development. There is a coalition, but the question to what degree this coalition is able to be a vital link, both internally and externally, remains as yet open. There is a lot of enthusiasm to highlight the People side of the story, but it is not (yet) at the forefront of budget or priorities.
Table 5 – (Initiatives for) coalitions (Green Forest).
132 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Conclusion: Regional Identity as a Factor in Acting by Means of Vital Coalitions South Limburg Hills As far as regional development is concerned, we are certainly dealing with a consciousness-raising process. We are talking about the southernmost part of the Netherland, which at the same time is at the ‘heart of Europe’. In that respect, South Limburg has too long taken the passive, victim stance, many people I interviewed feel. The sentiment that everything is declining has been fostered too long, but it is of the utmost importance to look at the opportunities that are in fact present, in addition to the uniqueness and qualities of the areas. There are opportunities for development, but people will have to be made aware of them. A nice consequence of the European location of South Limburg as an area and the corresponding opportunities for its inhabitants is that they are able to use international facilities and possibilities. People as a consequence network very actively, in a geographical sense as well. As far as healthcare is concerned, people can make use of both Belgian and German facilities but tend to favour the former, as care is provided quicker there. This is a development actively pursued by healthcare provider ORBIS. A clear development trend is visible in rapprochement between the Belgian and Dutch provinces of Limburg. Their Governors, Frissen and Stevaert, actively consult each other and are already jokingly referring to “East” and “West” Limburg. It is part of their independent stance towards their respective national centres of power, Brussels and The Hague, with the implicit message being broadcast: ‘Let us take care of our business ourselves for a while.’ There certainly are forms of cooperation, quite a lot in fact and in the eyes of everyone I spoke to, they appear to be very much embedded in the mode of living and working in South Limburg. The ‘Burgundian’ way of negotiating, where everybody knows where to find the people he needs along short lines of communication, appears to favour a free form of cooperation. There is a risk factor, though, because firstly it is often the same few people who are active in the network and it is very difficult for actors to transcend themselves. One characteristic of the ‘Limburg way’ is that people easily get involved in this or that initiative, but at the same time it can be argues that this keeps everything ‘old school’ and that true innovation can only take place when people feel a personal sense of urgency. It can very well be vital to try and act and form alliances out of one’s own entrepreneurial spirit. Whether this can be innovative, vital or sustainable even, remains to be seen. The use of normative terms such as these forces us to classify using qualitative 133 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
qualifications, because variables such as spread, range, and radius of action tell us little about the degree of vitality. I would like to argue, in fact, that whim, unpredictability, spontaneity and passion cause an area to come to life.
The Green Forest ‘The P for Passion is, or should be, the most important reason for wanting to put the area on the map. In this P, emotion is encoded, but beyond that it is the most difficult aspect, even when this is where the distinguishing aspects are. The point is: you have to make choices at certain points in your area development process. It depends on your main points and your target groups; are you aiming at the cities, at people outside of Brabant? Different stories for different target groups. What people in the area proud of?’ (Official involved on behalf of the Province of North Brabant) When dealing with the Green Forest, it seems quite difficult to determine what actually is ‘the issue’: perhaps there is no acute problem as such; there is a situation. The fact that actually attention was given to the Green Forest has all to do, according to many, with it becoming a National Landscape. This provided momentum. A new issue that immediately arose is the large amount of ‘administrative fuss’ in the area. There are many societies, foundations, interest groups and the like: lots of activity had already been set into motion, quite apart from the formal parties. As a handle, the term Green Forest has only been known for some ten years; the underlying stratum is the historical region of the Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch. There seems to be a certain paradox around the Green Forest and the administrative whirl around it: a lot of appropriation is taking place by (semi)governmental bodies, making it look like a top-down process, whereas it could just as easily be considered a bottom-up initiative of enterprising parties within the area. Coalitions may be discerned at various levels. The united farmers in a given subarea form a coalition of sorts, the entrepreneurs that are member of the corporation technically constitute a coalition too, but these are examples of rather horizontally oriented coalitions. Besides these, there appears to be an area coalition in the making with those parties merging into the new regional organization. The mere fact that so many people and parties are willing to talk to each other at all perhaps points at a super-coalition, but if so, it is an abstract one and certainly not a formalised one. When can a coalition be considered vital, is a question I asked myself and the respondents I spoke with. ‘If it does not amount to more than just a signed declaration of intent of governmental parties, you might as well throw it in the bin. 134 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
In that case, it is only aimed at achieving a milestone and after that all momentum will dissipate.’ Another respondent told me: ‘A vital coalition in my opinion indicates that you can achieve – now – more together than everybody on their own, without having to convince the others. It may be gone tomorrow, but the vitality will be here today.’ Making vitality visible, being able to achieve long-term synergetic effects with multiple parties involved, this seems to be the crucial aspect of vitality. The vital part within the concept of vital coalitions points at the flexible, the coalition as such on networks or even institutionalisation. Identity in a subtle sense of region remains a very fluid concept, for there are continually new sub-aspects and sub-stories emerging. Vital coalitions are no different, here is about a collective journey of exploration and a collective wish for development and scaling up as well. Farmer coalitions or corporations being prepared, for example, to look at embedding in a greater whole in order to make the Green Forest more attractive, indicates that such a thing as ‘added value in stories’ exists. The fact that the Green Forest is recognised as being important for BrabantStad seems to indicate this as well. The regional account and the Regional Festival might well prove to be the basis for a coalition in themselves. In the cultural/cultural-historical sector, one cannot talk of cooperation or regional forms. This renders the sector somewhat invisible as a potential partner for cooperation. There are a few personal unions and everything stands or falls with the individual’s qualities: those actors have to be able to create occasions: ‘The last of the Oirschot missionaries is “coming home” soon. The ethnological society of the Land of Oirschot is performing research, the museum is doing an exhibition and there will be a Mass. The cultural sector depends, however, on individuals, which renders transcending initiatives difficult. I occasionally consider developing a “smuggler’s route”, to be able to guide people around the area, based on the arrangements idea and in cooperation with the Tourist Board. This might bring about a kind of area awareness, but we tried a similar thing for the Sacred Institutions (Religious Heritage theme year) and I now know how much effort such initiatives take.’
135 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Towards an Actor‐Based Approach: Creating Cultural Area Innovations from a Perspective of Regional Identity To answer the question posed at the start of this chapter, I would like to say the following: The agenda-setting role of ‘regional identity’ in area development in my opinion is encoded in intermediary forces: actors that start area initiatives in cooperation with others, based on area capital and area knowledge and, in doing so, develop and encounter forces that themselves have an effect on the larger story of the area: cultural area innovations as a dynamic and interactive relation between smaller, personal experience on the one hand and largerscale developments on the other. From the agenda-setting factors found, which determine whether or not there will be room to manoeuvre, capacity to act is felt and modes of alignment arise, we can draw a few lessons, based on the developments studied, on the relevance of using regional identity as an active factor in an area development process, juxtaposed to the potential vitality or sustainability of the initiatives.
A vital storyline, or rather several storylines that together constitute a cultural story of the area, seems to profit from a certain amount of ‘looseness’. Institutionalisation, which is apt to occur when people organise themselves (especially at administrative levels), may become suffocating in a over-hurried search for the story, in which dynamism and the cultural biography’s many facets get lost in a whirl of program lines and abstraction that are purely marketing-oriented. The economic (entrepreneurs), green (and ecological) and cultural (and cultural-historical) lines should be actively looking out for each other to prevent an area lock-in from occurring. Cooperation from the idea of solidarity, whether or not it is about old or new traditions, needs proponents but also subtlety, benevolence and interdisciplinarity. At present, domains are too much separate, from the administrative level down to the various institutions’ actors. A second lock-in lies in the actors having a stereotypical image of ‘regional identity’ as a complex concept. This quickly leads to biased positions, that are linked to perceived historical constructs or prominent actors (‘they obstruct everything’ or ‘he is so dominant’). There are indeed many forms of appropriation taking place in an area development process, and its assessment by other actors determines what vitality arises for a given initiative: proponents of a branding story can be very
136 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
determining, which leads to the risk of excluding people. Founding fathers of an area can be identified too much with the area (risk factor), ethnologists are sometimes branded as ‘taking traditions and so the process hostage’. Two differing area truths in the field of ‘regional identity’ are on the one hand a search and need for a ‘tangible’ story of the area, leading to the risk of essentialism; and on the other that you should not ‘organise cultural forces to death’. A new vision of the region as a whole, from innovative concepts arising out of the various domains may be a way to gather actors around a story. Thinking in arrangements, new markets or vital coalitions to attract target groups and serving and implementing liveable city-countryside transitions are examples. Sustainability is a flexible concept– is it determined by temporal or quality aspects? Momentum is very important to develop area initiatives, alliances and chains. It is apt to dissipate when actors feel it all takes too much time, which is, however, not to say automatically that no vital contribution to a total process has been made when viewed over a longer period. The timeframe of human memory is in fact very important in a cultural story of the area, for it consists to a large degree of stories, feelings and associations. When there is a feeling of ‘nothing happening’ for a longer period of time, ‘area fatigue’ may arise. On the other hand, when there is an excess of actions and parallel initiatives, something like ‘area saturation’ may occur. Neither may be considered a vital breeding ground of and for a cultural story of the area.
137 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
6. Sustainable Area Development A Cultural Perspective You’re never going to preserve the landscape, because the landscape changes all the time, it has done so all the time. You need to understand where it has come from in order to manage the retention of those elements that you’re valuing. And what you’re valuing is a traditional image, because that’s what you’re selling. What you see and what you enjoy is based upon what you know. – County Archaeologist For me, sustainability is a balanced set of relationships between all of the people who are involved. Sustainability never stops. You can never say you’re there, because it’s just like life. – Tourism destination manager
Appearances – Culture and its Regions An Exploration of the Perspective – Culture as a Sustainable Carrier of the Region and/or Engine for Area Development? Once a title has been put to a piece, it immediately appears to be a truth in itself. As if there really is an incontrovertible and self-evident relationship – an active process, if you will – between area development and the cultural dimension. To show that there is a cultural dynamic at work, in many different guises, in area development is a hypothesis I have explored in the previous chapters. That the reverse is clear as well, that ‘culture’ plays a part to those parties involved themselves, we have seen as well. How consciously are ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ culture taken into account in something as intangible are area development? Whether we can speak of sustainable dynamics is another story, and how can we determine whether this is the case? Using a number of national and international examples I have researched for earlier investigations, I would like to take you along to discuss some opportunities and challenges for the ‘fourth pillar’ of sustainability, passion (actors in coalitions). In the search for vital coalitions I questioned the makeability of a community in relation to the subject of area development: an increase in interests and actors, conflicting agendas, decreasing controllability (system actor, fragmentation of power), area development being narrowed down to spatial planning policies 138 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Similarly, this chapter aims to investigate how a feeling of being rooted in a given region, i.e. regional identity, can offer insights into the role of connectedness as a basis for storylines and involving inhabitants in connecting the city and the countryside.
Existing Views on Culture and Sustainability in Brabant Many in the fields of research and administration have suggested that, as far as the social-sustainable pillar of sustainability is concerned, the primary focus should lie with improving the attractiveness of the province of North Brabant as a seat of residence for higher-educated professionals. ‘What factors can improve a vital stock-flow ratio here?’ A possible thesis could be: the higher educated nowadays share a common ‘creative ethic’, a combination of working hard (work ethic) and living freely (enjoying life): the art of living well. Core interests within this view are aesthetics (including heritage, landscape, air and water, public space) and diversity (culturally, ethnically, spatially). Telos, the Brabant Centre for Sustainability, recognized as aspects for participation a social component (taking part in various collective or semicollective arrangements, associations, volunteering, but also collective arrangements that form within or around commercial domains such as going out, shared hobbies, shopping, but also experiencing nature, recreating etc.) and a cultural component (taking part in various cultural arrangements, partially to enlarge their cultural portfolio, not only high-brow but also lowbrow, including the cross-cultural component). Additionally, Telos has issued an experience report (Hermans and Dagevos 2006) on the occasion of the four-yearly sustainability stocktaking, in which the values of the inhabitants of Brabant and their opinion on living, safety, nature, economy and youth have been charted. One of the conclusions from the report is that the inhabitants generally have a positive view on the environmental characteristics and give the Brabant landscape 7.5 marks out of ten. Taking a cue from the report, the Brabantse Duurzaamheidsraad (Brabant Council for Sustainability) has pleaded a case for broadening the perspective, letting go of the distinction between city and countryside and giving the region centre space. Using the right scale to deal with social-cultural, economic and ecological problems is important here. Dare to let go of administrative divisions where necessary, they stated. The Countryside Monitor of 2007, once again performed by Telos, concluded from the responses to questions I had contributed that the inhabitants of Brabant feel a strong connection to their region, with their residence only 139 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
coming second. Another remarkable conclusion is that urban inhabitants feel a closer connection to the province as a whole than their rural counterparts. Respondents are also able to see the distinguishing features of Brabant’s region, even though they are not always familiar with all (historical) regions. The regions of Kempen, Biesbosch and De Peel are all well known, whereas e.g. Markiezaat and Maaskant are hardly known at all. The areas that score highest are at the same time considered the ‘prettiest’ (cf Kaplan and Kaplan). Another interesting aspect is that the new National Landscape Het Groene Woud (Green Forest), a subset of the pre-existing historical region Meijerij (Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch), is already known to a large group of respondents (30%) (see also Chapter 5).
High‐Brow Versus Low‐Brow, Lowercase ‘c’ Versus Capital ‘C’: the Range of Brabant Culture While investigating the new National Landscape Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest), many external researchers encountered a number of obstinate paradoxes (which were only later pointed out to them, in a number of tumultuous meetings). Clichés are easy to bring into play and often are true at that, but this does not show how they operate, or show (parts of) identity. Traditions offer insight into a region, but are not able to directly explain the agendas of the present-day coalitions of actors. Besides, being able to walk ‘around the back’ to have a look in the kitchen does not necessarily enable you to interpret what you see. Culture is a dynamic, manifold phenomenon, both spontaneous and coded and always moving, in parallel to the society which it forms part of. Culture often appears to be a set of codes and repetitions, but its flexibility also directly indicates its intangibility. Culture moreover is also subtle and so soothes the soul. The future will tell whether the new construct of the Green Forest fits the older structure of the Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch; whether the graft has been successful. Interesting questions are whether there are distinguishing features and whether these are needed; whether there is a synergy with other regions, landscapes, regional centres and programmes; what sustainability means: certifying entrepreneurs, an attractive range for recreants and tourists; whether the Regional Festival can serve as the figurehead of an ecological production chain; whether it is possible to have nature reserves that are both being protected and accessible; whether there is or can be a story of the region that is visible and can be told. These questions show a mutual connection that is very relevant to the exploration of the relationship between 140 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
culture and area development. Development, after all, implies direction, but which direction and who or what will determine it? The agenda-setting role of ‘regional identity’ in area development to, as stated earlier, is embedded in intermediary forces: actors who develop area-oriented initiatives in cooperation with other actors, based on area capital and areaspecific knowledge and so develop and encounter forces that themselves have an effect on the larger story of the region: cultural area innovations as dynamic and interactive relationships between smaller, more personal experience on the one side and larger-scale developments on the other. To get a feeling of the scope of the cultural provincial domain, I shall present below an (admittedly subjective) overview grouped by theme. Maashorst-Maasheggen (-farmers) Mortelen farmers Dune farmers Green Forest corporation Nature organizations
Cultural area sources
Green Forest regional festival Regional account Regional halls (Hilvarenbeek, Reusel enz.) Area managers
Cultural area initiatives
Deurne: Cultural Heart of the Peel region Efteling amusement part as promoter of area development New Markets Brabant Leisure Boulevard
Cultural area innovations
Brabant’s Treasures Brabant 900 University chair ‘Cultuur van Brabant’ Canon(s), dialogue on folk songs
Cultural area knowledge
Regional history clubs Multiculturalism Guilds Museums Carnival Regional products Processions, chapels, road crosses Brabant Day
Cultural area capital (both tangible and intangible)
Table 6 – Scope of the cultural domain as applied to the Green Forest.
141 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Figure 32 – The Brabantse Dag (Brabant Day) parade in Heeze: social activities as an example of cultural area capital.
Representation and Identity Representation and Identity and the Role of Landscape When discussing the cultural side of area development, the following aspects are important: historical sensation, experience of authenticity, level of scale of perception, and viewing by means of frameworks. All of these could well be explained as legimitation for/of actions in an arguably active or conscious process of area development. After all, there must be an incentive and an intrinsic logic for one to stand up for one’s direct environment. It is certainly not a process decreed ‘from above’. As we saw, preconditions for the application of regional identity in regional development are (Bijsterveld) that it should:
Appeal to connection, being rooted, trust and recognisability Offer space for appropriation at multiple levels and by several groups Work as a binding force inward and as a identifying brand outward Offer chances for profitable cooperation between urban and rural partners Be linked to symbols and spatial structures Attract pioneers and mediators: a vanguard of public and private parties
Landscape and identity as concept enjoy a great deal of attention, most often interlinked at that. Why should this be? The closest answer is that we all are storytellers at heart: hearing and reading in the landscape. Nowadays we are 142 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
part of the famous ‘experience economy’, so adequately stated and analyzed by Metz (2002). (As an aside, Metz interestingly and somewhat against her will was proclaimed a guru in this field – apparently we feel the need to appoint authorities and vanguards.) Generally speaking, the population of Western Europe is well-to-do and easily bored, and needs to be amused at the speed and the resolution of the newest Playstation. As the concept of identity is becoming increasingly dynamic in nature, the landscape faces more and more difficulties satisfying that need. For in the natural landscape naturally everything has its season. The cultural landscape is trying to adapt, but has at the same time become the scapegoat as concerns spatial quality, spatial cluttering, faulty city-countryside transitions. Furthermore, we want to have our cake and eat it: space and quiet and a high-speed train line and water storage areas. To many people, this simply is too much: they long for ‘something familiar’. Maybe the doctrine of the globalization economy within cultural philosophy simply is true and the level of scale we encounter today simply is too large for us to comprehend (all the time). We can fly into the Andes and the Himalayas for a ‘breather’, go to Bali or Tibet to meditate and sail for Antarctica. Bringing to mind the experiences of Neil Armstrong c.s.: we are sick of dimensions. Why has the rate of emigration from The Netherlands spiked in the last few years (possible answers: too crowded, too rude, no opportunities, need for a better living climate for the children) and why are those staying behind getting so worked up about the ‘newcomers’ from yet other countries (apparently elsewhere is it even more crowded with an even worse living climate)? Tired of both the macro level (‘Turn the TV off for a moment’) and the micro level (career and children, moving to the city or the countryside, tough or metro), people increasingly tend to turn to the previously underappreciated meso level. The Netherlands are coming home: regionalism is gaining the upper hand.
Role and Meaning of the Various Layers of Government After all this cultural-philosophical euphoria, perhaps it is now time for a reality check. The national government is slimming down; there has been for years a discussion on whether provinces and water boards should be abolished, and the main focus of governing and policy seems for now to have shifted to the municipal level as per the Spatial Planning Act (WRO) and the Social Support Act (WMO) legislation. The municipalities for their part are running into the limitations of their powers and are bumpingly and grindingly conglomerating into city provinces (Amsterdam region, Eindhoven region, Arnhem-Nijmegen) and similar constructs. 143 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
It seems a level is missing, namely that of the region (both in an administrative and a cultural-historical sense). This intermediate domain has been underdeveloped in the discussions mentioned above, or we have lost the sense for their detection and use, especially in spatial planning. In ‘days of old’, the region was the natural frame of reference because of the smaller span of travel and the resulting greater concern with regional markets, dialects, almanacs, local marriages and the like. Old signposts always mentioned distances in hours of travel – a dimension in which we can travel from one side of the country to the other by means of high-speed trains. Being conscious of your region and its identity has been frowned upon slightly because of the Second World War’s associations; but at both the start and the end of the twentieth century, it was quite different. We have seen the region being a carrier of identity and as the engine behind the emergence of organizations such as Natuurmonumenten and Bond Heemschut (natural and cultural heritage organizations in The Netherlands). Parallel to these paradigm shifts within science, we see the cultural historians’ focus shifting from ‘conserving and inventorying a culture under threat’ through ‘demythologising, debunking all non-rational stories’ to the more current question why a sense of identity is so important to people. At least for the Netherlands, it seems that the baby boomers’ children again dare be proud of their roots (pop music sung in regional dialect, the rise of regional accents in commercials, not moving to the west of the country for their career but staying in the region and joining local clubs). It may well be a social-demographic phenomenon amplified by the large number of (happy) singles that may feel more at home in well-known surroundings. With all these active concepts in mind, we will now take a small tour d’horizon along the concrete examples in this publication of the usage of the cultural dimension in active area development. To assist us, we will bring with us the concepts of experience economy, meso level, over-burdening the landscape and regional pride.
144 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Tour d’horizon: What Can the Regions in The Netherlands and Abroad Teach Us? Heuvelland Zuid‐Limburg (South Limburg Hills) As regards regional development, we are certainly dealing with a process of growing awareness here. South Limburg is at the same time the southernmost part of the Netherlands and at the “crossroads of Europe”. In that sense, Limburg has a lot of potential and played the role of “marginalized outsider” for too long, many actors feel. The sentiment that everything was going down has been fostered for too long, whereas it is important to look at the opportunities at hand in combination with the region’s qualities and distinguishing features. The local population needs to become more aware of the opportunities for development. A nice consequence of the European-oriented location of Limburg and the resulting opportunities for its inhabitants is the possibility to look across borders and regions, make use of different amenities and opportunities. Local people have the chance to network very actively, also in a geographical sense. Additionally, there is a clear path of development in rapprochement between the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg. Their Commissioners, Frissen and Stevaert, actively approach each other on issues of mutual interest and jokingly refer to ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ parts of (one) Limburg. There are many bodies of cooperation, quite a lot actually, and their presence seems linked, everybody tells me, to the way of life and working in South Limburg. The southern, laid-back, so-called ‘Burgundian’ way of negotiating, in which people can reach each other through short lines of communication, seems to advocate a free format for cooperation. There is, however, a detrimental risk factor, for firstly it is mostly the same set of people active in the various networks and it appears to be difficult for actors to not only think of their own interests. One characteristic of the ‘Limburg way’ is that people easily participate in both the one and the other, but this is exactly why it could be said that all remains ‘old school’ and that true innovation only can take place when people feel a sense of urgency. The cultural sector in the South Limburg Hills has divided itself into two parts, as in other places. There is a confident, largely urban ring of amenities for dance, music, theatre. These actors currently feel somewhat underappreciated since they have not been asked to participate in the policymakers’ innovation agenda, remain stuck in the ‘subsidy corner’ when their statement is: ‘We are a separate economy generating revenues for the 145 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
entire region. What makes people come here? Culture.’ On the other hand, there is a more cultural-historical, local-history lobby that has seen the stigmatizing label of ‘conservative’ attached to itself and that is seen – sometimes rightly so, they admit – as keeping innovation hostage through an eagerness for conservation. Nevertheless, the more traditional expressions of culture (traditions, folk stories, regional clubs) are part of this sector and in that sense, a lot of the knowledge and the cultural capital is vested in these actors and parties.
Figure 33 – Many people visit the Limburg hills for their special, almost un-Dutch qualities. The area’s proponents increasingly realise that this is where the area’s added value and attractiveness lie.
Het Groene Woud (The Green Forest) For the Green Forest, it seems hard to determine what exactly is ‘the problem’. Perhaps there is no actual problem as such, but more a situation. The very fact that this region received larger-scale attention has, many say, everything to do with its elevation to the status of National Landscape, which resulted in a forward momentum. An issue that immediately came to light is the large concentration of levels of organization in the region. There were many clubs, unions, foundations, interest groups and what have you already present, never mind the institutionalized parties. The term ‘Het Groene Woud’ has only existed for ten-odd years now; the underlying structure is the ancient region of the Bailiwick of ’s-Hertogenbosch. It seems that there is a certain paradox surrounding the Green Forest and the 146 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
administrative denseness in it: there is a lot of appropriation by (semi)governmental parties, making it seen a top-down process, when it could easily also been viewed as a bottom-up initiative of entrepreneurial parties within the region. We see coalitions at various levels. The farmers have formed coalitions for sub-regions of the Landscape; the entrepreneurs that are member of the Groene Woud cooperative form another coalition; but both are examples of rather horizontally oriented coalitions. Apart from these, it seems there is a new regional coalition in the making in which these coalitions are subsumed. The fact that there are so many people and parties willing to talk to each other at all indicates a possible super-coalition, but for now it remains rather abstract and certainly not formalized. I asked the respondents – and myself – the question when a coalition can be considered vital. ‘If it is no more than a signed declaration of intention of governmental parties, you might as well just throw it away. Then it will only be concerned with reaching milestones, after which the administrative momentum will be gone.’ Another respondent replied: ‘To me, a vital coalition indicates that you can do more together – now – than each on its own, without having to convince others. Maybe the initiative will have run its course by tomorrow, but we will have its vitality today’. Making vitality visible, being able to create synergetic effects over a longer period of time with multiple parties, this seems to be the crucial aspect of vitality. The vital part of the concept ‘vital coalition’ refers to the flexibility; the coalition of course the forming of networks or even more permanent institutions. Identity proves to be a very fluid concept within a subtle sense of region, because at every turn new partial aspects and stories emerge. It is no different with vital coalitions, as we are dealing there as well as here with a shared exploration and a shared desire for development and upscaling. The fact that e.g. a farmers’ coalition or corporation is prepared to look at fitting into a larger whole in order to make the Groene Woud more attractive, indicates that there is such a thing as ‘added value in the story of the region’. The recognition of the Groene Woud’s importance to BrabantStad also seems to point in this direction. The regional account and the Regional Festival may well prove to be the basis for a coalition of its own.
147 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
For the cultural/cultural-historical sector, no cooperative coalition or regional platform seems to be emerging. This makes the sector somewhat invisible as a possible partner for cooperation. There are a few individual initiatives and any momentum must (and can only) be generated by these actors.
Cases in Germany, Britain and France Germany (Frankfurt Green Belt)
Figure 34 – Synergies between economy, ecology and culture: traditions can support modern innovations.
The Green Belt around Frankfurt (Frankfurter Grüngürtel) is a protected area, but the belt loop is not entirely closed: there is a gap in the southeast. At that point there is the possibility of closing the gap in coordination with parties such as Deutsche Bahn, Otto Versand and the European Central Bank. Furthermore, an important aspect for the Belt as a whole is whether there is possibility for economic development within a protected nature area. The Green Belt literally ‘provides a breath of fresh air’ to the city. People have the opportunity for recreation, resting and learning from nature and landscape. The ecological lobby wonders what the possibilities for sustainable preservation of the area could be without diminishing ecological diversity. The bid economic players in Frankfurt have an interest in good living and working environments and in tandem to that, they do not mind any cultural spin-offs, such as the airport (Fraport) sponsoring local activities.
148 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Large portions of the ground making up the Green Belt are owned by private individuals, who represent earlier ways of cultivating the land. There are initiatives from these individuals and an expertise centre to preserve and revitalize the famous production of apple wine by creating production and supply chains and working together with the cultural-historical sector (museums, guided tours, range of products, harvest days, harvest queens). Bringing the intrinsic importance of the Belt on the radar of local administrators is important, as it is an integral part of positioning your city (inter)nationally. The entire mindset on the region must be switched from ‘defensive’ to ‘offensive/attractive’. Developing the Green Belt is now viewed as a kind of charity rather than an economically viable opportunity. Many parties are involved, but the challenge lies in connecting smaller and larger storylines. The current situation of the land being scattered across a multitude of owners is a metaphor for the process for the entire area. There are opportunities for projects with sponsoring and developing an enterprise for new forms of marketing: by embedding storylines, one could create a link between landscape, history and economy. This could well be a public-private cooperation. There is a lot of opportunity to connect to existing (inter)national traditions, to revitalize forgotten traditions or promote (the creation of) new traditions (new names and products). The Frankfurt region has a phenomenon called harvest queens, e.g. the Apple Queens of Frankfurt and Bergen-Enkheim, and several village have queens for other crops such as pumpkins, onions and the like. Even today, these queens fulfil a symbolic and representative role by representing the crop and its industry: they form a bridge between tradition and economy. Great Britain (New Forest, South Downs, High Weald) The New Forest, the South Downs and the High Weald all are within the richer southern part of the country. Here we find an interesting situation in that these regions, which all have a certain level of protection, have many well-to-do inhabitants, which paradoxically seems to offer (through a desire to conserve) little room for innovation. Attempts at marketing are made, but the managing parties of the New Forest cannot always seem to agree on how and the High Weald is not allowed to use the ‘honey pot’ of Winnie-the-Pooh as a branding device. We see also attempts at chain development for regional products. Developing certification seems to be a problem, though. The various regions have always known a logical interrelation, with the Downs and the New Forest at the coast and the Weald beyond as a transitional area towards the north 149 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
and London. There is a multitude of private and public preservation organizations and there is a drive to preserve unique species at unique locations. In these regions, regional products often are expensive, threatening to render them out of reach to the local population. Local methods of production enjoy great attention, but the question remains whether local wood production and regional production can attain critical mass. Traditional ways of working and their representation are represented at fairs and in museum, but it is debatable whether this can sustain the region. Cultural projects such as education and initiatives in the field of recreation have room for supra-sectoral cooperation. Having a strong brand can hinder progress. In the branch of tourism, too much attention is paid to form and less to content. Developing a brand is hard work and certainly not easy, it requires stamina. You need a number of core actors who act with drive and passion and are able to carry the initiative. There is not always a need to raise new money to develop new things. Public-private constructs are absolutely essential to the development of the region and its products. A hindering factor is that on the public side there is some nervousness, partly due to political concerns and partly to a certain ‘fear for the taxpayer’ (conservative region, where do the interests lie?). There is a reluctance to invest in new markets. Developing new markets and new directions is very closely related to personal interests, traditions or ways of working. In marketing and developing new chains, lines and products, it is essential to experience a kind of turning point.
Figure 35 – 'Old’ and ‘new’ culture: landscape representation in an open-air museum (right) and an example of branding a ‘newly-developed’ regional product (left).
150 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
It is vital that the local community be involved in the South Downs as a region. The Joint Committee is not in it for its own benefit, but for that of the Downs. Identity has to do with connectedness, and connectedness is reflected in a (regional) story. Regional identity in the South Downs really is all about many stories that fit many identities. The need for an overarching connection does not detract from the fact that strength lies in the many sub-regions and subinitiatives that are meaningful to the greater whole. The High Weald for their part does not choose to emphasize a specific identity, but rather to strengthen awareness in people of the landscape in which they live. Its aim is to promote knowledge and increase involvement, that people may feel encouraged to reflect on their surroundings and act more sustainably. For people to be able to feel connected to the place in which they live, a sense of history is important, and with it a broader view on spatial planning debates. The memory span for traditions and images is about a century, sometimes even less. This may be an obstacle when creating policy, and so a balance must be attempted. Regional products currently being developed and marketed are relatively expensive and so only cater for the upper layers of the market. This is a problem inasmuch as it conflicts with the starting point of sustainable development. Marketing regional products creates publicity but also supply towards relatively expensive up-market stores, leaving people with less means without access to local and healthy products. Branding can therefore be a problematic term, since it wishes to represent and promote a rural lifestyle, which the local population is not always able to embrace. This is called the branding paradox. France (Marais Audomarois) The Marais Audomarois (Saint-Omer Marshes) has of old been an important agricultural area for Northern France, originally developed in the Middle Ages by Flemish monks after the Low Countries model. An entire community of farmers has handed down their knowledge on agricultural practice down the generations. Necessary scaling however has brought todayâ€™s agricultural entrepreneurs into conflict with nature preservationists and recreants in the area. In addition to being a major production area, the Marais is a unique natural area as well. Agricultural parts that have become available and parts that have always remained uncultivated together are being managed by the Parc naturel regional (Regional Natural Park). The â€˜Parcâ€™ is an important player in the region and as such is an important driver for sustainable development. The 151 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
area is dealing with issues of city and countryside (unlocking, encroaching built-up areas, visitors and recreants), rights of land owners (a rich individual who possesses large tracts in private ownerships, redevelopment of heritage). Parties seem willing to revitalize old customs such as processions and stories, enabling culture to be a co-carrier of the area and visitors to enjoy this immaterial heritage. Integrity is a precondition, also toward the entrepreneurs present in the area.
Figure 36 – Traditional stories can culturally enhance the area story in modern times, respecting all parties involved (entrepreneurs, inhabitants, visitors).
It is difficult to bring together apparently irreconcilable interests in an open dialogue on development. Often these dialogues prove that multiple stakeholders are concerned with the same interest, but in another guise. In the Marais, many farmers feel that they are being hindered by the preservationists’ lobby, the tourists and the city, when in fact quite interesting alliances could be forged with these parties. The question of city-countryside transitional areas manifests itself quite clearly in Saint-Omer. Of old, there has been a logical link between the agricultural area and the city for supplies, transport and facilities. The balance, however, is shifting. Whereas formerly the countryside was working for the city, nowadays the city has an ever increasing demand for recreational use of the area. Additionally, the modern public has a different and new kind of interest in ‘living in the countryside’. The entrepreneurs in the Marais now face the challenge of presenting themselves and being open to innovation. The city inhabitants for their part must show respect for the countryside.
152 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The possibilities for developing a specific brand for the Marais audomarois are not obvious. Although in principle everybody feels it is a nice idea and there are some pioneering efforts in this respect, interested parties admit that on the one hand, there is interference from existing brands (of powerful stakeholders in the agricultural sector and the Parc), and that on the other hand they are unsure how to ‘charge’ such a label. Initiatives to this end should be more robust than there were until now, if a decision to attempt this should be made.
Agenda‐Setting of Regional Identity in Vital Coalitions The intermediary forces that I found in my research are: Intermediary forces 1
Actor and factor
Well-known entrepreneurs who actively ‘raise an area’
Paralysing sense of history
Actors feel that networks are natural, but forming chains not self-evident
A sense of urgency to sustain dynamism in the region
The dynamic lifestyle of the inhabitants themselves
The story deviser and teller
Retaining recognisability and conceptualising in coalitions
Passion, or, the basic force of the story told personally
Historical understanding at odds with the force of labelling
New construct = natural networking and new forming of chains
Added value of synergy between old and new
153 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
The Atlas syndrome: area champions between Scylla and Charybdis
Innovation equals dealing with representation and risk factor
The magic and the power of the story of the area constitute the x-factor
Table 7: Intermediary forces.
From the international case studies I especially learnt the following:
Grafting a new area (such as a National Park) onto a pre-existing culturalhistorical region needs love and patience; the process is not obvious. Take a leaf out of the neighbours’ book: what is happening in a region in a larger perspective? Regions are advised to agree on a joint programme. Sustainable area development has, next to People, Planet and Profit, a need for an additional ‘P’ to supplement the first one: Passion. Passion for the region. Of primary importance in the area development process is that there be positive cooperation: open but not overly so, suffocating. Pioneers are always needed: this can be a process promoter, an ambassador or figurehead (the latter often has a base position in the area). Attention to the (historical) layers and the biography of the region can offer insight into already present core qualities. Branding should be taken into account in the greater process: a brand in itself does not equal an intelligent marketing chain. In some cases there can well be no need for marketing (are there products to be marketed?); positioning in attractiveness or revitalizing the region could be sufficient/ Not always new money is needed to develop new things. Move from story towards storylines; create a story for the region. Make use of old and new traditions. Do not be afraid of symbols and rituals. Couple them to economic perspectives to be their carriers.
154 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
This leads me to the following schematic analysis of the various concepts in relation to each other (cf. also the dwelling perspective I started out with): “AGENDA-SETTING OF REGIONAL IDENTITY IN VITAL COALITIONS”
CULTURAL AREA KNOWLEDGE
CULTURAL AREA TRIGGER CULTURAL AREA CAPITAL
(CAPACITY TO ACT ?)
ECONOMY PUTTING INTO PRACTICE / APPLICATION (ROOM TO MANOEUVRE ?)
AGENDA-SETTING FUNCTION CHAINS OF ACTORS/ PARTIES
TOOLSET (1) DWELLING-WORKINGLIVING CLIMATE (2) ASSOCIATIVE FUNCTION OF CULTURAL SYMBOLS
CHANGE/ REGENERATION/ INNOVATION FROM STORY TOWARDS STORYLINES
Figure 37 – Agenda-setting of regional identity in vital coalitions for sustainable area development.
Final Conclusions: Recommendations for Promoting a Relation between Culture and Area Development Our tour around a number of examples from the Netherlands and abroad shows that an actor approach is really helpful; distinguishing pioneers and pushers, who commit themselves to promoting their region based on an agenda. What decides these agendas, how it is understood and how it can be influenced (or rather, promoted/supported) turned out to be an interesting question. Not all regions have the same opportunities and possibilities. Additionally, there is the semantic difficulty of the concepts region, area and the Dutch term ‘streek’, which have their separate origins and history of appropriation. The cultural-historical ‘streek’ seems to be best suited, due to its high profile and associative values. Here we see how being ahead can 155 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
actually hinder progress, where the associated ‘identity’ or qualities become cherished playthings of both opportunist entrepreneurs and conservationminded local historians. The motivation for the actors concerned – be they individuals, be they ‘parties’, and especially the possible coalitions show possibilities for action – but also their reasons for doubt are often enclosed in the aspects of experience, consciousness and ways of acting discussed above. To get an overview of dimensions involved, I assembled the most important concepts/factors: Historical sensation
Experience of authenticity
Impact of emancipation
Scale of perception
Level of connectedness to a region
Overburdening of the landscape
Viewing by means of frames
The effects of representation
Being proud of the region
Table 8 – Overview of landscape actors and factors on the regional level.
Which leads us to the most important lessons learnt at the regional development level:
Public and private parties are very well suited to complement each other, but how to find each other is not always obvious: it takes insight, guts and innovative strength between the domains of economy, ecology and culture to get into contact with each other and to (be willing to) understand the other(s). What works for one region will not automatically work for another: the interplay of organizations, historical interests and actors will always be unique to the case. There are certainly main threads that can teach valuable lessons, but the level of participation or exclusion of resources and networks determines the effectiveness of a coalition and the right humus layer to enable sustainable chain development to grow.
156 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Sustainability means something to one region but quite something else to another. The High Weald primarily focuses on local participation and awareness (for landscape and cultural history); the New Forest occupies itself – carefully, but confidently – with preservation through development. The South Downs are working on smart chain development; the Marais Audomarois is dealing with questions on roles, property and citycountryside transitions. Lastly, in Frankfurt the relation between the old and the new, between modern and traditional poses a challenge. Remarkably, developments that were once intended to be sustainable can develop into quite the opposite. Local products, the engine for the local economy and promoter of a healthier lifestyle, through their exclusivity can become too expensive for the originally intended local target groups.
The conclusions above lead to the following insights/recommendations for regions involved in a process of change:
Enabling or promoting strategy towards actors: support with preconditions and actively asking for and supporting initiatives: bottom-up versus topdown. Investigative role: support regions in investigating how realistic a proposed development is, but from the greater perspective. It is unadvisable to keep developing regions until the entire map of a country has been allotted… Social role: implementing normative and policy-oriented frameworks responsibly, responding to demand from the community, daring to let go of well-trodden (organizational) policies, promoting quality of life and preventing structural imbalance; reviewing expected developments with other partners at the social middle level. Principle of participation: ensure that the envisaged audiences in the community can join in the desired developments (communication, education, inviting); democratic principle of the ‘co-constructing and coresponsible citizen’, to be weighed against the envisaged programmatic added value (top-down versus bottom-up initiatives and demand). Act as an intermediate between national and local government: as an ambassador for more culture-related financial sources for use within the region; as a keeper of support functions and umbrella organizations and towards the municipalities as a linking pin for supra-regional cultural agendas: spread and settling.
157 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
It is important to recognize the cultural dimension within all sides of the sustainability triangle, to be able to understand that economy and ecology are part of the social-cultural, and vice versa. This enables us to fully appreciate the value and the role of the cultural area forces: cultural area sources, cultural area initiatives, cultural area innovations, cultural area knowledge, cultural area capital both tangible and intangible. To put these forces into a concrete approach needs on the one hand organisational sensitivity (listening, being sensitive to the level of scale, assuming an encouraging attitude, avoid role confusion, being willing to be a linking pin, being prepared to let go of institutional compartmentalisation). On the other hand, a content-oriented mindset is needed, aimed at following up new initiatives, offering room for lateral thinkers, being able to guard and where necessary change the cultural agenda, and which allows stories to emerge, to be told and to be passed on.
158 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
References Aalten, A. and M. Moirée (1994). “Tussen fascinatie en pretentie. De biografische benadering als onderzoeksmethode in vrouwenstudies”, Tijdschrift voor vrouwenstudies 60: 491-507. Aarts, N. et al. (2006). Zelforganisatie en ruimtegebruik: van open netwerken en gesloten gemeenschappen. Utrecht: InnovatieNetwerk. Agro&Co (2007). Jaarbeeld 2007. Tilburg: Agro&Co. l’Ami, Carlo et al. ed. (2008). Brabant weerbaar in de wereld. 25 jaar sociaaleconomische ontwikkeling in de Noord-Brabantse samenleving. Tilburg: BOM. Arnaud, D. (2006). Le marais audomarois. Au fil de l’eau entre Flandre et Artois. Wimille: Punch. Augé, M. (1995). Non-Places. Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso. Barbier, L. et al ed. (2002). Le marais audomarois. Regards d’enfants, visions d’avenir. Colembert: Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale. Beckers, T. (1999). “Het landschap als kijkdoos”, in: Kolen and Lemaire (1999). Bell, C. et.al. (1995). Environmental Psychology. New York: Fontana Press. Bender, B. ed. (1993). Landscape: Politics and perspectives. Oxford: Berg. Bernts, T. et al. (2007). God in Nederland 1996–2006. Kampen: Ten Have. Bijsterveld, A.J. (no date). Presentation held for entrepreneurs in the Groene Woud (Green Forest), at a workshop on branding of regional products. Boelens, L. (2006). “Beyond the plan. Towards a new kind of planning”, ETHZürich 4-2006, 25-40.
159 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Boonstra, F. (2004). Laveren tussen regio’s en regels. Verankering van beleidsarrangementen rond plattelandsontwikkeling in Noordwest-Friesland, de Graafschap en Zuidwest-Salland. Assen: Van Gorcum. Borgt, C. van der (1996). “Een groeiende belangstelling voor de eigen regio”, in: Carlo van der Borgt et al. ed. Constructie van het eigene: culturele vormen van regionale identiteit in Nederland. Amsterdam: Meertens-Instituut. BrabantStad (2007). BrabantStad mozaïek metropool. Den Bosch: Atelier BrabantStad. Brouwer, J. et al. ed. (2007). De grenzeloze regio: praktijkboek regionale strategieën. Den Haag: SDU. Clark, K. (1979). Landscape into Art. New York: Harper and Row. Cohen, A.P. (1985). The symbolic construction of community. London: Travistock. Cosgrove, D. (1984). Social formation and symbolic landscape. London: Croom Helm. Curré, C. (1998). Living landscape. Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam (MA thesis). Curré, C. (2008a). “Leven op een landgoed”, in: H.B. Beskers et al. ed. Jaarboek Achterhoek en Liemers. Doetinchem: Steenbergenstichting. Curré, C. and J. Janssen (2008b). “De groene ruimte”, in: J. Bieleman et al. ed. De geschiedenis van het boerenleven in Nederland. Zwolle: Waanders. Dirven, E. et al. ed. Stuck in the region? Changing scales for regional identity. Utrecht: Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap. European (2008). A European Book of Our Experiences 2004–2008. Den Bosch: Provincie Noord-Brabant. Giesen, P. (1 June 2007). “ We moeten af van die slachtoffercultus”, de Volkskrant. 160 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Glyn, P.J. and H. Pendergast (1995). Ashdown Forest. An illustrated guide. Ashurst Wood: Essedon. Gröning, G. and U. Herlyn ed. (1996). Landschaftswahrnemung und Landschaftserfahrung. Münster: Lit. Hermans, F. and J. Dagevos (2006) ed. De duurzaamheidbalans van Brabant 2006. Tilburg: Telos. Herngreen, R. (2002). De 8e transformatie. Over planning en regionale identiteit. Wageningen: Blauwdruk. Hill, N. et al. (2007). Branding the Landscape. A Guide. Den Bosch: Provincie Noord-Brabant. Hirsch, E. and M. O' Hanlon ed. (1995). The anthropology of landscape. Perspectives on place and space. Oxford: Clarendon. Hobsbawm, E. and T. Ranger (1983). The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University. Horlings, I. et al. (2006). “Vital coalitions: The urban regime theory as theoretical framework for analysing public-private partnerships and (self-) governance in rural regions”, in: The organisation of innovation and transition. Zoetermeer: TransForum. Horlings, I. ed. (2007). Duurzaam platteland in Brabant: een handreiking. Tilburg: Telos. Hough, M. (1990). Out of place. Restoring identity to the regional landscape. New Haven: Yale University. Ingold, T. (1993). “The temporality of the landscape”, World Archeology 25: 152-174. Ingold, T. (1997). “The picture is not the terrain. Maps, paintings and the dwelt-in world”, Archeological Dialogues 4: 29-31.
161 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Janssen, J. (2006). Vooruit denken en verwijlen. De (re)constructie van het plattelandschap in Zuidoost-Brabant, 1920–2000. Alphen aan de Maas: Veerhuis. Janssen, J. and C. Curré (2007). “Verleiden is de kunst”, in: Horlings (2007). Kerkstra, K. et al. ed. (2007). Landschapsvisie Zuid-Limburg. Maastricht: Provincie Limburg. Kolen, J. and T. Lemaire ed. (1999). Landschap in meervoud, Utrecht: Van Arkel. Kolen, J. (2005). De biografie van het landschap: drie essays over landschap, geschiedenis en erfgoed. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit. Kolen, J. (2006). “Lezing regionale identiteit”. Lecture held on 29 September 2006 at the National Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, at the presentation of the SKOR book Regionale identiteit: kunst en ruimtelijke planvorming. Kruit, J. et al. (2004). Regionale identiteit van natuur en landschap: een verkenning van een containerbegrip en de bruikbaarheid als sturingsintrument. Wageningen: Alterra. Kuper, A. (1983). Anthropology and Anthropologists. London: Routledge. Laglas, K. and R. in ’t Veld (2002). Gekrulde ruimte. Dagboekjes. Den Haag: Raad voor Ruimtelijk, Milieu- en Natuuronderzoek. (intermediate report) Langness, L.L. and G. Frank (1985). Lives. An Anthropological Approach to Biography. Novato: Chandler. Lemaire, T. (1970a). Filosofie van het landschap. Bilthoven: Ambo. Lemaire, T. (1970b). “Archeology between the invention and the destruction of the landscape”, Archeological Dialogues 4: 5-21. Linking (1995). Linking People and Places. A consultation report. London: The National Trust.
162 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Löfgren, O. (1987). “The nature lovers”, in: J. Frykman and O. Löfgren. Culture builders. A historical anthropology of middle-class life. Piscataway: Rutgers University. Mach, Z. (1993). Symbols, Conflict, and Identity. Essays in Political Anthropology. New York: State University of New York. Malinowski, B. ( 1987). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge. Malinowski, B. ( 1954). Magic, Science and Religion, and Other Essays. New York: Doubleday. Marsden, T. (1998). “New rural territories. Regulating the differentiated rural spaces”, Journal of Rural Studies 14: 107-117. Metz, T. (1998). Nieuwe natuur. Reportages over veranderend landschap. Baarn: Ambo. Metz, T. (2002). Pret!: leisure en landschap. Rotterdam: NAi. Mommaas, J.T. et al. (2008). Nieuwe markten en vitale coalities Heuvelland Zuid-Limburg. Innovatief praktijkproject. Zoetermeer: TransForum. Natuur (2000). Natuur voor mensen, mensen voor natuur. Nota natuur, bos en landschap in de 21e eeuw. Den Haag: Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij. Newby, H. (1985). Green and Pleasant Land? Social Change in Rural England. London: Wildwood House. Newby, H. ed. (1995). The National Trust. The Next Hundred Years. London: The National Trust. Nijkamp, P. (1999). “De revival van de regio”, in: Frans Boekema et al. De regio centraal. Assen: Van Gorcum. Ottevanger, R. (2011). Vergelijkend onderzoek naar Nationaal Landschap Het Groene Woud, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty High Weald en Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland. Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht (MA thesis). 163 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Paasi, A. (1986). “The institutionalization of regions: a theoretical framework for understanding the emergence of regions and the constitution of regional identity”, Fennia 164: 105-146. Paasi, A. (2000). Re-constructing regions and regional identity. Nijmegen: Nethur. Paasi, A. (2003). “Region and place: regional identity in question”, Progress in Human Geography 27: 475-485. Pellenbarg, P.H. (1991). Identiteit, imago en economische ontwikkeling van regio’s. Groningen: GeoPers. Rapport, N. (1993). Diverse World-Views in an English Village. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University. Renes, H. (1999). “Landschap en regionale identiteit”, Geografie, p. 8-15. Rooijakkers, G. (1999). “Mythisch landschap: verhalen en rituelen als culturele biografie van een regio”, in: Kolen and Lemaire (1999). Schama, S. (1995). Landscape and Memory. London: HarperCollins. Schoo, H.J. (13 April 2007). “Onrust over het landschap”, de Volkskrant. Schreurs, K. ed. (no date). De kracht van landschap. Natuur- en milieueducatie voor een duurzame samenleving. Boxtel: IVN. Schuppen, S. van (2007). Onland en geestgrond. Het mentale landschap in de ruimtelijke orde van de Lage Landen. Nijmegen: Sun. Sijmons, D. ed. (1998). = Landschap. Amsterdam: Architectura + Natura. Simon, C. (2005). Ruimte voor identiteit. De productie en reproductie van streekidentiteiten in Nederland. Groningen: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Start, I. (2012). “Pronkhuizen in het nauw”, Elsevier 68: 80-81. Thomas, K. (1984). Man and the natural world: changing attitudes in England 1500-1800. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 164 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Vegt, Loes van der et al. (2008). De kracht van het Groene Woud in ontwikkeling: proces naar identiteit en ontwikkelthema’s. Den Bosch: Provincie Noord-Brabant. Urry, J. (1995). Consuming Places. London: Routledge. Verrips, J. (1983). En boven de polder de hemel. Een antropologische studie van een Nederlands dorp 1850–1971. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff. Verrips-Roukens, K. (1982). Over heren en boeren. Een Sallands landgoed 1800–1977. Den Haag: Nijhoff. Ziel, Tjirk van der (2006). Leven zonder drukte. Den Haag: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.
165 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Colophon The motto was quoted, translated from Dutch, from the poem “V/h boer” by J. Bernlef, collected in Brits (1974).
History of the Chapters “Living Landscape. An Anthropological Approach” was first published (in Dutch) in Kolen and Lemaire (1999). “The Art of Seducing” was co-written with Joks Janssen and was first published (in Dutch) in Horlings (2006). “The Story behind the Story. International Examples of Sustainable Area Development” was published earlier as an internal project report only, made possible with funding from the EU Interreg III programme Lifescape Your Landscape. “From Culture to Branding? 'Regional Identity' in Action” was initially financed by the BSIK programme TransForum, subprogramme Vital Coalitions and previously unpublished. The article has been largely revised for this publication. “Sustainable Area Development. A Cultural Perspective” initially was written as a contribution to a strategic study of the Province of Noord-Brabant and previously unpublished. The article has been largely revised for this publication.
Other Materials During all research cases, use has been made of various web sites, leaflets and other promotional material, internal reports and the like, all kindly contributed by the organisations visited, for which many thanks.
Picture Credits Photographs were taken by Arjan de Weerd, except figures 4–5, 26 (both) and 33 (both), which were taken by the author. 166 | F r a m i n g t h e V i e w
Framing the View: How to work with heritage and identity on a regional scale This book takes the reader on a journey through regions in Southern England, The Netherlands, France and Germany, to places where economic, spatial, ecological and cultural forces meet. How can we understand the various actors who engage in sustainable management and what can we learn from the perspectives and approaches they have chosen? How do they tackle issues on landscape and identity? Starting from a ‘dwelling perspective’, the author arrives at a possible model for agenda-setting of regional identity in vital coalitions for sustainable area development.
About the Author Christian Curré was born in Hilversum, The Netherlands in 1974. At age three, he and his parents moved to the Achterhoek region in the eastern Netherlands, the backdrop of his youth and starting point of his fascination with landscape. Curré read Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, graduating in 1998 with distinction. Since then, he has held positions at, among others, Archeologisch Dienstencentrum (centre for archeological services, researcher), Habiforum (programme for innovative spatial planning, senior communications manager), Telos (Brabant centre for sustainable research, researcher) and De Negende van Eindhoven (cultural history, director). Additionally, he has been a board member for various cultural and social organisations. His publications are generally in the fields of anthropology, cultural history, spatial planning and landscape management.
This book takes the reader on a journey through regions in Southern England, The Netherlands, France and Germany, to places where economic,...
Published on Nov 29, 2015
This book takes the reader on a journey through regions in Southern England, The Netherlands, France and Germany, to places where economic,...